Annie Londonderry's Wild Ride

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Since leaving my 5th floor walkup apartment building and graduating to a home with enough space for a bicycle, I have been a woman obsessed. Riding my bike is faster, cleaner, and way more fun than riding the subway or the bus. Apparently, I am not the first Jewish woman in Boston to feel this way. Tomorrow marks the 114th anniversary of Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky’s historic round-the-world bicycle journey, which she began in Boston on June 25, 1894.

Due to a $20,000 bet that no woman could travel the world by bicycle (as a man first did in 1885), Annie Kopchovsky set out on her trek westward to Chicago. She earned the nickname “Annie Londonderry” when, in need of money to support herself during her journey, she accepted $100 from the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company to wear their advertisement as a placard on her already heavy bike.

Over the next fifteen months, Annie made the trip, on her own, through the United States, Europe, and East Asia, proving to the gentlemen who made the bet (as well as most of the world), that women not only had considerable athletic prowess, but could survive independently on nearly any spot on the globe.

How cool is that? Even in contemporary times very few people, male or female, attempt (or succeed) at circumnavigating the world on two wheels. I can just imagine how freeing it must have been for Annie to be alone and strong in a world where a woman alone was unthinkable. Not to mention seeing Europe, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Singapore, China, and Japan, all in the course of a year. Though I only ride my bike to and from work plus an occasional weekend jaunt someplace pretty, all this week I will be imagining myself pedaling past pyramids and along the Great Wall, and wishing I was there.

To learn more about Annie Londonderry and her historic ride, visit This Week in History.

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