By Mary Davis
“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Susan B. Anthony 1896
Annie Cohen Kopchovsky thought so too. The Latvian-Jewish immigrant, and mother of three, set out to prove just how liberating the bicycle could be for women. But Annie had several hurdles to overcome if she ever hoped to reach her goal of cycling around the globe.
Hurdle one, she was a woman. Most people didn’t expect much from a woman. Thomas Stevens was the first person to bicycle around the world in 1887, so no one would be that interested in seeing a repeat performance.
On a wager, Annie took up the challenge to bicycle around the world. Or was there a wager? They say two rich Boston businessmen wagered $20,000 against the $10,000 that a woman could bike around the world. In Annie’s great-grand-nephew's book about her trip, he says there wasn’t a wager. But whether money was at stake or not, Annie was going to attempt the impossible.
Hurdle two, Annie didn’t own a two-wheeler. A woman’s safety bicycle was provided for her by Columbia Bicycles.
Hurdle three, Annie needed to learn how to ride a bike, which she did a few days before starting out on her journey.
Hurdle four, as an immigrant with three children, she didn’t have a lot of money. Enter the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company. They paid her $100 to have an ad on the back of her bicycle.
Hurdle five, she was Jewish and anti-Semitism was wide-spread. As part of the agreement with the spring water company, Annie agreed to use the name Annie Londonderry for the duration of her trip around the world.
Annie started her journey in Boston on June 27, 1894 around eleven o’clock and headed west. She took with her a change of clothes and a pearl-handled pistol. Upon arriving in Chicago on September 24, she had already lost twenty pounds, having started out at only around 100 pounds. Her determination to complete her journey was stronger than ever. She realized she couldn’t make it over the mountains and to San Francisco before the snows started flying, so she turned back for Boston. But before leaving Chicago, she met with the Sterling Cycle Works and traded her forty-two-pound women’s Columbia bicycle for a lighter-weight men’s Sterling bicycle, at twenty-one pounds. She also traded her long skirt for more practical bloomers.
She headed back the route she’d taken to New York City and boarded a ship bound for France on November 24, arriving in Northern France on December 3. Her bicycle and money were confiscated. She managed to free herself and set out toward Marseilles, arriving two weeks later by both cycling and by train with an injured foot propped up on her handle bars. There was no stipulation how much of her trip had to be completed on the bike. She boarded a steamship and completed day-trips at stops along the way. She visited Alexandria, Colombo, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, and Kobe.
On March 9, 1895, she left Japan and sailed for the US, arriving in San Francisco on the 23rd. She set out for Los Angeles, then through Arizona and New Mexico. She was nearly killed by a runaway horse and wagon. After heading north through Denver on August 12, she hopped a train to cross Nebraska because of roads too muddy to travel by bicycle. She broke her wrist in Iowa when she crashed into a group of pigs and had to wear a cast for the remainder of her trip.
Londonderry completed her trek when she pulled into Chicago on September 12, fourteen days ahead of schedule. She arrived back in Boston on the 24th.
Besides the initial placard for Londonderry Spring Water, Annie earned money by selling other advertising on her bike and her body as well as selling photos of herself and appearing in stores as an attraction. She became a rolling billboard.
Though she traveled by train and ship throughout her journey, she still logged thousands of miles, riding her bicycle. Once back home, she appeared for speaking engagements and wrote articles about her traveling adventure.
“I am a journalist and a ‘new woman,’ if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.” Annie Cohen Kopchovsky Londonderry
THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Quilting Circle Book 2)
Can a patient love win her heart? As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle—always the unfavored daughter—becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Despite gaining the attention of a handsome rancher, her parents are pressuring her to marry a man of their choosing to rescue her sister’s reputation. A third suitor waits silently in the wings, hoping for his chance at love. Will Isabelle capitulate and marry her parents' choice, or will she rebel and marry the man they don’t approve of? Or will the man leaving her secret love poems sweep her off her feet?
Who Knew? Women in History by Sarah Herman