The Jewish Woman Who Bicycled Around the World

August 16, 2021 | Tzach Yoched
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In the 1890s, a Jewish woman from a devout background named Annie Londonderry embarked on a journey around the globe on her bicycle. Peter Zheutlin, a distant relative of Londonderry, wrote a book about her accomplishment in 2007, and has now followed up with a fictionalized version. Tzach Yoched writes:

Born Annie Cohen Kopchovsky in Latvia, in 1870, Londonderry took her pseudonym from the first of her many corporate sponsors: the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company of New Hampshire.

Londonderry was, at first glance, an unlikely candidate to become a feminist icon. . . . At seventeen she lost both of her parents and a year later married an Orthodox Jewish merchant named Simon (a/k/a Max). Before learning how to ride a bicycle, she gave birth to three children.

Londonderry set out on her journey from Massachusetts on June 27, 1894, but it took considerably more than 80 days for her to go around the world. She eventually completed her mammoth task on September 12, 1895—fifteen days ahead of the fifteen-month goal she had set for herself. (In case you’re wondering, there were lots of boat journeys between continents, so she wasn’t cycling the whole time.)

Londonderry’s epic journey, though, was as much a public-relations campaign as an act of female independence. “She told everyone that she’d been selected to settle a wager between two Boston merchants who were arguing whether a woman could do what only a man had done before—circle the world by bicycle,” Zheutlin explains.

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