What do YOU Aspire to?
For Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky it was the chance to prove something about the “fairer sex”. Well, that’s the legend anyway. Read on and decide for yourself what drove this remarkable person in 1894 to be the first woman to bicycle around the world.
Was it because of a bet or was it just a publicity stunt? Was she crazy, irresponsible, or heroic? Some of the truth is lost to history, but we do know this: Annie Kopchovsky left home on June 25, 1894 to circle the globe with nothing more than a pearl-handled revolver, a suitcase, and a bicycle.
Annie Cohen was born in Latvia, but became an American when she was a young child after her family moved to Boston. When she was 18, she married Max Kopchovsky, and four years later, the couple had three children.
So what inspired the 24-year-old Jewish mother to leave home? The legend goes (and we say “legend” because the truth of it is in great dispute) that two wealthy Bostonian businessmen were discussing the “fairer sex” at a club when one bet the other $20,000 that no woman could travel around the world by bicycle.
“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate woman than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”
– Susan B. Anthony in an 1896 interview in the New York World
A woman of great chutzpa, Annie took up the challenge, despite having learned to ride a bicycle only days earlier. The only conditions of the bet were that she complete her journey in under 15 months and that she raise $5,000 above her expenses along the way.
“Miss Londonderry is… a sort of riding advertising agency. She wears ribbons advertising various goods and will receive $400 for one firm’s ad that graces her left breast. On her right bloomer leg, she carries $100 worth of advertisements and she has just closed a contract to cover her left arm. She says her back is for rent yet and she hopes to get $300 for it.”
– The Buffalo Express, November 1, 1894
She began her travels with a hefty 42-pound Columbia women’s bike, and wore the long skirt, corset, and high collar of the time. But after riding from New York to Chicago, she traded it all for a 21-pound men’s Sterling model with one gear, bloomers, and a man’s riding suit.
“I firmly believe that if I had worn skirts I should not have been able to make the trip. It must not be thought that I lost the attention, which is supposed to be associated with feminine apparel. I was everywhere treated with courtesy, and for the benefit of my sisters who hesitate about donning bloomers I will confess that I received no less than two hundred proposals of marriage. I mention this to prove that bloomers are no handicap to matrimonial aspirations.”
~ Londonderry writes in the New York World, Sunday 29, 1895
“You know what I think about the bicycle for the physical development of women? Well I know from experience that there is nothing better than a wheel to build a woman up. When I started out on this trip I weighted 105 pounds, and now my weight is 140. The excursion has not made hard, bunchy muscles, such as you often see on athletes among men, but has made good, pliable muscles that have developed me all over and have rounded out every curve.
– Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky, Stockton Evening Mail
Annie returned to Boston nearly 15 months to the day, completing what the New York World called the “most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” She challenged the status quo on many fronts and proved, without a shred of doubt, that a woman can do anything she puts her mind to.
Despite making international headlines and being one of the most celebrated women of the time, Annie eventually faded into obscurity. But she remains today a legend-maker, and an inspiration to women and bicyclists (male and female) everywhere.
All of us here at Aspire™ can only say; “WOW!” Hat’s off to an amazing woman who took on the perceptions of the world and shattered them with her drive, energy and will.
And speaking of energy, (yes, this is a shameless plug), fuel up your next ride with an ice-cold, great tasting Aspire. It’s packed with healthy, good-for-you ingredients like ultra premium green tea (high in EGCG), B and C vitamins, ginger root extract, biotin, and more. Plus, Aspire has no calories, no sugars and no calories. All of the good, none of the bad.