Today in Women’s Transportation History – 1895: Around the World on a Bike

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky (1870-1947), better known as Annie Londonderry, reached an important juncture in her unprecedented round-the-world bicycling tour when she made it back to the United States. Nearly nine months after leaving her adopted hometown Boston on a Columbia woman’s bicycle, she arrived in San Francisco aboard the steamship S.S. Belgic.

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky had been born in the part of the Russian Empire that is now the Republic of Latvia. She and her family immigrated to the United States in 1875, and she became an American citizen shortly thereafter.

Kopchovsky was married with three children when she undertook a worldwide trip that would make her the first woman to complete such an ambitious endeavor. She had never ridden a bicycle before. The Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company, recognizing the promotion potential of Kopchovsky’s long-distance ride, paid her $100 to both carry a placard for the business on her bicycle and adopt “Londonderry” as her last name.

On June 27, 1894, the newly renamed Annie Londonderry — carrying a pearl-handled pistol and a change of clothes – pedaled out of Boston after saying farewell to her family as well as a crowd of approximately 500 other people gathered for the occasion. After reversing the direction of her trip from west to east, she made her way across the Atlantic Ocean to France and from there she traveled by bicycle (eventually exchanging her original Columbia version for a Sterling model intended for men) to a variety of international destinations that included Egypt, India, Singapore, Cochinchina (present-day Vietnam), China, and Japan.

Londonderry captured the public imagination not just because of the pioneering global ride itself but also due to her vivid tales of adventure and derring-do en route that may or may not have been rooted in fact. After arriving in San Francisco, Londonderry pedaled her way across the United States. She reached Boston about 15 months after leaving there. The New York World newspaper highlighted her successful trip as “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.”

For more information on Annie Londonderry and her record-setting bicycle ride around the world, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Londonderry.

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