Interactive Design by Elise Baugh
For full interactivity, best viewed on a computer or tablet device.
For full interactivity, best viewed on a computer or tablet device.

July 28, 1894 - New York City – A crowd of hundreds, including many reporters, swelter under the repressive heat of the hottest summer in thirteen years in anticipation of the departure from their budding metropolis of a twenty-three-year-old woman named Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky.

She was an enigma. A married Jewish mother of three, Londonderry claimed to have only ridden a bicycle three times previously, yet boldly promised the public she would circumnavigate the world on a bicycle in fifteen months. When Londonderry arrived in New York City on July 3, 1894, she told the New York Herald she would only remain in their fair city for three days because of her pressing time schedule; instead, she lingered for three weeks, perhaps attracted to all the city had to offer. Londonderry had become a young woman suddenly unencumbered by husband or children, a scandal in its own right for the times.

Whether Annie's adventure was to fulfill a wager, as she boasted to newspapers, or to fulfill her own whimsical desire to change her life - change her life Mrs. Kopchovosky did; Miss Londonderry, as she became known to the world, attracted headlines as one of the most infamous sport stars, as well as suspected charlatans, of her time. Annie’s chutzpah and bravado also made her an international symbol of the "New Woman" – a term popularized by the American author Henry James in the late nineteenth century and adopted in the early stages of the modern feminist movement.

Many consider the 1890s to be the start of the modern world, with New York City glittering at the forefront of change: a woman’s right to vote was just around the corner; the city was swiftly becoming the center of the advertising and newspaper world; Broadway, the city’s most famous street, was soon to be synonymous with top-notch theater worldwide and Madison Square Garden was home to unprecedented sports spectaculars including cycling races and expos. Despite the popularity of cycling at the time, sports sponsorship of women was non-existent, but Annie Londonderry was about to change that forever.

It certainly wasn’t this simple, but it was as though one rebellious woman donned a pair of bloomers, hopped on a bicycle, and the world was forever changed, stepping into modernity and never looking back.

Geared Up for Change: Cycling Towards Suffrage
Geared Up for Change: Cycling Towards Suffrage
Cycling and suffrage went hand in hand.
Cycling and suffrage went hand in hand.
"Yes, I'll tell you what I think of bicycling,"

she (Susan B. Anthony) said, leaning forward and laying a hand on my arm. "I think it 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."

~ Nellie Bly* quotes Susan B. Anthony in an 1896 interview in the New York World.

* Nellie Bly was a great inspiration and later a journalistic rival of Londonderry. Annie even wrote under the name "Nellie Bly Junior" for the New York World after she returned from cycling around the world.

*   *   *

Annie "Londonderry" Cohen Kopchovsky
Annie "Londonderry" Cohen Kopchovsky
"I am a journalist and a 'new woman'

if that term means that I believe I can do anything any man can do. Nellie Bly, the readers of the Sunday World know, went around the world in seventy-two days and beat the record. But she had the comforts of steamships and parlor cars.* I have been around the world on a bicycle and I think that beats the record of any feminine undertaking to date.”

~ Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky writes under the pseudonym Nellie Bly, Junior in an article in the New York World in 1895.

 *Ironically, Londonderry herself also rode many steamships and parlor cars to complete her around the world adventure.

Author Sue Macy: A New Way of Looking at the World
Women that cycled were often referred to as "mannish" in the 1890s.
Women that cycled were often referred to as "mannish" in the 1890s.

*   *   *

“Miss Londonderry belongs to this third sex.”

“Truth be told, Miss Londonderry is not of their race, not even…their sex. She belongs to that category of neutered beings, single* women without a husband or children, that social evolution and the increasing difficulties of existence have given birth to especially in America and England. Such women resemble neutered worker bees whose superiority of labor is a result of infertility. And the suppression of love and maternal function so profoundly alters in them any feminine personality that they are neither men nor women and they really constitute a third sex. Miss Londonderry belongs to this third sex. It is enough to see her masculine traits, her muscled physique, her athlete’s legs, her hands which appear strong enough to box vigorously, and everything masculine which emanates from her energetic being….one would be tempted to believe that Miss Annie Londonderry, with her boyish charms, is really a young man who assumed a female name in order to draw attention to her reckless enterprise… She has none of the physical charms of a woman.”

~ Peter Zheutlin quotes Parisian newspapers on their opinion of “Miss Londonderry” in “Around the World on Two Wheels.”

* It is of interest to note that the farther from her family Annie traveled, the more single she became.

Author Sue Macy: Cycling Dangerous to a Woman's Morality
Women joined together to fight for the right to vote.
Women joined together to fight for the right to vote.

*   *   *

What do you think the new woman will be?"

"She'll be free," said Miss Anthony. "Then she'll be whatever her best judgment dictates. We can no more imagine what the true woman will be than what the true man will be. We haven't him yet, and it will be generations after we gain freedom before we have the highest man and woman.

They will constantly change for the better, as the world does. What is the best possible today will be outgrown tomorrow."

~ Nelly Bly quotes Susan B. Anthony in an 1896 interview in the New York World.

Author Carlton Reid: The Modern World
Headers and Headlines: A Spin in the Spotlight
Headers and Headlines: A Spin in the Spotlight
“Annie changed her story to suit her mood
Londonderry told wild lies such as claiming to be a medical student.
Londonderry told wild lies such as claiming to be a medical student.

or situation, painting a confusing picture of her background to match the confusing picture of her sexuality being painted by the press. Her repertoire of tall tales was limitless. In various interviews she described herself, “an orphan at a very young age” (not so); a law student (not true); a doctorate of law (not true); a medical student who earned money “dissecting cadavers” (not true); a businesswoman (true; she was an advertising solicitor); an accountant (apparently not); a reporter for several newspapers (unclear); a wealthy heiress who had inherited “a substantial fortune.” (untrue); and the founder of a newspaper which she sold just before embarking on her journey (not true).

It’s impossible to discern her motive in making these varied and, in some cases, outlandish claims. She often seemed to take delight in pulling the legs of reporters, almost all of whom were men at the time, and in testing the limits of their credulity. But the sheer randomness and grandiosity of some of her claims hints at an almost pathological aversion to telling a straight story, though she was never delusional – she knew exactly what she was doing and appears to have enjoyed the game, almost daring reporters to find out who she really was.”

~ Peter Zheutlin writes in “Around the World on Two Wheels.”

*   *   *

Londonderry staged a photograph of being robbed at gunpoint.
Londonderry staged a photograph of being robbed at gunpoint.
“One night I had an encounter with highwaymen

near Lancone. I think they were waiting for me, for they knew I had been earning money in Paris. There were three men in the party, and all wore masks. They sprang at me from behind a clump of trees, and one of them grabbed my bicycle wheel, throwing me heavily. I carried a revolver in my pocket within easy reach, and when I stood up I had that revolver against the head of the man nearest me. He backed off but another seized me from behind and disarmed me. They rifled my pockets and found just three francs. They were magnanimous enough to return that money to me. My shoulder had been badly wrenched by my fall, and my ankle was sprained, but I was able to continue my journey.”

Author Peter Zheutlin: An Uncanny Knack for Headlines

*   *   *

Annie Oakley also rode a Sterling bicycle like Londonderry.
Annie Oakley also rode a Sterling bicycle like Londonderry.
And now we have chanced upon another crank

from that land of marvelous wagers and remarkable exploits. This time it is a woman; a woman arrayed in an advanced costume smacking of the feminine attire of the next century. Last evening on the balcony of her hotel she was the object of curious interest. A short woman, with a not unpleasant face, and a back at once suggesting to a Sherlock Holmes, by the deductive theory, she was addicted either to a sewing machine or a bicycle. Her costume removed the doubt. An easy fitting, low-cut blouse of pale blue, knickerbockers of dark serge, black stockings on well shaped legs, and white shoed denoted the modern cyclist. Her face was sunburnt, and there was a latent will power, not to say aggressive independence, in its lines, which prepared one to know that the lady was not an ordinary tourist.”

~ Singapore Straits Times, February 14, 1895

Author Peter Zheutlin: Around the World Journeys

*   *   *

Annie Londonderry and her husband Max.
Annie Londonderry and her husband Max.
“A Remarkable Diary of Fifteen Months in All Parts of the World in her Bloomers”*

“In India I fell in with a party of ten, consisting of Prince Leland of Germany, and his guests. They were on a tiger hunt and rode elephants. I accepted their invitation to join the hunt and saw a tiger shot. Prince Leland made me a present of the skin.

I crossed the Pontoon River accompanied by a Japanese guide and a British missionary named F. A Moffatt. The river was frozen over, but when near the shore the ice broke and we all fell in. While in that predicament a party of Chinamen appeared on the opposite bank and fired at us, killing the Japanese guide, and wounding both Mr. Moffatt and myself. I was shot in the shoulder. Both of us reached the shore alive, but Mr. Moffatt died later from the effects of his wound a few days later.

In Yuma, Ari.,** a woman refused to give me a drink of water. It was the first act of inhospitality I had experienced and in my own country too. Her excuse later, when questioned by a local newspaper man was: 'I didn’t know her. I thought she was a tramp.'"

~ Londonderry writes in the New York World, Sunday 29, 1895.

*one of the taglines for Londonderry's New York World article

**Arizona did not even become as state until a 1912. It was still the wild, wild west.

Author Peter Zheutlin: Londonderry's Diary
Wheeling and Dealing: A Penny for Your Spokes
Wheeling and Dealing: A Penny for Your Spokes
“Miss Londonderry is… a sort of riding advertising agency.
Women on bicycles were used to sell many items including collectable cigarette cards.
Women on bicycles were used to sell many items including collectable cigarette cards.

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

Author Carlton Reid: This is the Future
Advertisers were quickly learning they could sell a diverse selection of "goods" to women as they became more active outside the house.
Advertisers were quickly learning they could sell a diverse selection of "goods" to women as they became more active outside the house.

*   *   *

"A Travelling Billboard"

"It certainly is bringing down the level of legitimate touring when one sees a woman working her way around the world and so far degrading herself as to be put on exhibit, so to speak, dressed in a fancy costume with circulars and advertisements sewn all over her dress."

~ Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph, 1895

Author Peter Zheutlin: Sports Sponsorship

*   *   *

“But we fancy she exaggerates. Some women do.”
Female cyclists were used to sell many items in the 1890s even patriotism.
Female cyclists were used to sell many items in the 1890s even patriotism.

"The cyclist was introduced as Miss Londonderry and when she spoke one would have known at a considerable distance that she hailed from the land of the stars and stripes. She cycled to Paris and there appears to have had a “high old time.” La belle France was at her feet. Her photographs were bought for 200 fr. a piece. Advertisers found it a paying business to give her 100 fr. a day to distribute prospectuses. Smith’s soap and Jones’ pills were labeled all over the machine at 25 cents a spoke. She sampled somebody’s milk, gave a certificate of its excellence, and pocketed 200 fr. She wore another enterprising firm’s boots and testified to the durability. She donned all kinds of patent arrangements, and received substantial bonuses… when she took reduced passage from Marseilles to Yokohama there must have been 50,000 people on hand to give her a royal farewell. But we fancy she exaggerates. Some women do."

~ Singapore Straits Times, February 14, 1895

*   *   *

"A Flying Start"
Scorchers were tearing up the streets in the 1890s.
Scorchers were tearing up the streets in the 1890s.

“On Saturday, June 1 (1895), she (Londonderry) gave a riding demonstration before a large crowd at Riverside’s Athletic Park* and raced the clock several times. She rode one‐eighth of a mile on a March brand bicycle in 0:14 ¾; a tandem mile in 2:28; a quarter-mile in 0:33 ¼, and on the Sterling, an eighth in 0:15 ½. These times suggest what was called a “flying start” – cycling records were kept for both flying and stand starts – but they are impressive nevertheless, all requiring speeds of close to thirty miles an hour...”

~ Peter Zheutlin writes in “Around the World on Two Wheels.”

* Riverside was Londonderry’s last California stop before crossing the dessert to Yuma, Arizona Territory to begin the last leg of her “race against the clock” eastward bound trek across the United States of America.

Author Carlton Reid: Scorchers

*   *   *

“They were showing such incredible strength and agility and independence.”
Female "trick" cyclists were appearing in circuses and in vaudeville acts.
Female "trick" cyclists were appearing in circuses and in vaudeville acts.

“Although the women who performed in the ring were well-muscled and wore leotards, short skirts and tights which showed the development of their arms and legs, posters that advertised the female circus stars would often undergo the early 20th century equivalent of airbrushing. A well-known female acrobat’s head might be attached to a more acceptably soft and curvaceous Ziegfeld Follies dancer’s body. In an era when long skirts and long sleeves were the fashion a female performer in tights and a form-fitting sleeveless top was considered seminude.

"Here were almost naked, unmarried young women swinging through the air and twirling and standing on horse’s backs as they raced at top speed around the arena. They were showing such incredible strength and agility and independence, and the advertising literature would stress that a young lady was traveling under the watchful eye of her father and liked nothing better than to stay home and bake cakes and knit in the evenings."

~ Historian Janet Davis, The University of Texas at Austin

Author Sue Macy: A Scandalous Play

*   *   *

An 1890s magazine depicts a man clinging to a female cyclist's bicycle.
An 1890s magazine depicts a man clinging to a female cyclist's bicycle.
“The pace was too much for them.”

“The day after her lecture, Annie was at the bicycle track where four men took turns riding on the tandem behind her, but each vowed never do so again because, 'the pace was too much for them.'

The way Miss Londonderry pulled Bart Allen around the track on that tandem greatly amused the crowd. She pulled him along so fast that it was all he could do to keep his feet on the pedals.”

~El Paso Daily Herald, 1895

Author Peter Zheutlin: Londonderry Delights in Upstaging Men

*   *   *

A circus poster depicts female cyclists as dangerous even in the big top.
A circus poster depicts female cyclists as dangerous even in the big top.
“A Spectacle”

“We do not see how any self-respecting woman can so far forget herself as to appear before an audience to race. The spectacle of…females straining every muscle, perspiring at every pore, and bent over their handle-bars in a weak imitation of their brothers is enough to disgust the most enthusiastic of wheelman”

~ The Bearings July 25, 1895

Author Peter Zheutlin: A Circus-like Atmosphere

*   *   *

“You know what I think about the bicycle for the physical development of women?”
Every form of fashion was sold to women for cycling during the 1890s including skirt clips and split skirts.
Every form of fashion was sold to women for cycling during the 1890s including skirt clips and split skirts.

Londonderry responds to a reporter from the Stockton Evening Mail. “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. Not only should women ride the wheel, but they should not wear heavy, baggy bloomers that make the work a torture and do not look nice. A heavy sweater, a neat pair of bloomers, leggings and a natty cap constitutes a proper costume. It looks simply ridiculous to see a woman pedaling on a wheel wearing a heavy dress and a sailor hat.”

Never known to be modest, Londonderry concludes the interview with, “My work on the bicycle since I started on this trip has developed me wonderfully.”

Author Sue Macy: Beginning of Sportswear for Women
Women cyclists in the 1890s were hardly "scantily" clothed.
Women cyclists in the 1890s were hardly "scantily" clothed.

*   *   *

"Indecent Apparel"

“Mrs. Nova, the first female cyclist to appear on the streets of Little Rock, Ark., clad in bloomers, was arrested by the police under an ordinance against, 'indecent apparel.' The bloomers were of the conventional style.”

~ Anne Arbor Register, August 1895

Author Carlton Reid: Quite Risqué
Satirical cartoons often depicted female cyclists as ugly, without feminine traits
Satirical cartoons often depicted female cyclists as ugly, without feminine traits

*   *   *

“Good looking? Not very!"

comments a reporter for the Daily Sun about Londonderry. "Bright, expressive eyes, which are keenly observant, are the distinguishing feature. A young lady who is in the saddle most of the time, cannot be expected to pay much attention to style.”

*   *   *

“The National Anti-Bloomer Brigade"
Cartoons depicted female cyclists as abandoning their husbands and family duties in favor of a bicycle.
Cartoons depicted female cyclists as abandoning their husbands and family duties in favor of a bicycle.

“In Norwich, New York, in 1895, a group of young men signed a written pledge promising not to associate with any woman who wore bloomers and to use 'all honorable means to render such costumes unpopular in the community where I reside.' Their goal, never realized, was to build their movement into a 'national anti-bloomer brigade.' Their effort was courageous, said theChicago Sunday Times-Herald, tongue in cheek, for '(t)he wearers of the bloomers are usually young women who have minds of their own and tongues that know how to talk,' a description that fit Annie to a T.”

~ Peter Zheutlin writes in "Around the World on Two Wheels."

Author Sue Macy: What Women Should Wear

*   *   *

Puck magazine in the 1890s depicted the female cyclists "love life" in many of their illustrations, often poking fun at it.
Puck magazine in the 1890s depicted the female cyclists "love life" in many of their illustrations, often poking fun at it.
“Bloomers are no handicap to matrimonial aspirations"

“I started to wear skirts and rode a drop frame, but I soon discarded the skirts and secured a diamond frame. I have been gone nearly fourteen months, have visited a dozen or more countries, been thrown into association with all classes and kinds of men, and have yet to receive an insult. I find it is not the bloomers, but the woman wearing them, that calls out the insults.”

~ Londonderry quoted in the Omaha World Herald, August 25, 1895

"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.

1897 Song "Scorcher"

*   *   *

Londonderry completed her journey in the time allocated and won her wager (if the wager every really existed or the entire trip was a stunt). Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky’s epic adventure eventually faded from the public’s memory. There is no evidence that in the fifteen months Londonderry traveled the world she ever spoke with her husband or children - but what is the expression, “Behind every great woman is a great man?” Perhaps because of her sheer exuberance, Annie was worth waiting for, and she and Max lived out their lives, each dying within a year of each other in old age.

Londonderry’s story was rediscovered when, author and avid cyclist, Peter Zheutlin learned of his great-grandaunt’s feat. He’ll be the first to tell you of his surprise when a relative told him that one of his own ancestors was once the most famous cyclist in the world. And there began Annie Londonderry’s second life. Despite Annie’s declarations of writing an autobiography of her adventures, she never wrote a book and her amazing journey disappeared from the public and press’ memories. Yet today, Londonderry is once again appearing in the headlines.

In 2005, as Zheutlin’s book Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride was about to be published, in Washington D.C. Gillian K. Willman was also discovering the strange tale of this “New Woman.” Willman’s husband, upon lifting the lid of a photocopy machine, discovered an article about Zheutlin’s three-year mission to retrace Londonderry’s journey. Willlman was fascinated and set off on her own leg of the Londonderry journey to make a documentary, The New Woman: Annie Londonderry Kopchovosky. Zheutlin’s book, since republished in Italy, South Korea and Germany, also caught the eye of a Canadian artist, Evalyn Parry. Parry created and entire performance piece inspired by Londonderry called Spin. Londonderry was again travelling the world.

And that leaves myself, an eternal optimist with a daughter of her own who believes a summer blockbuster could not only be filled with action and adventure, but could also feature a strong female protagonist. After reading “Around the World on Two Wheels,” I knew I’d found a fascinating and complicated, headstrong female role model to inspire girls, boys, women and men alike, the world’s very own “Indiana Jones in bloomers.”

* * *

A very special thanks to the generous cycling enthusiasts and resources that shared their historical imagery: The Bike Man, The Online Bicycle Museum, Roads Were Not Built for Cars, The Beamish Museum, From Wheels to Bikes, and HATSCHIBRATSCHI. Additional historical photographs courtesy of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and Wikimedia.

* * *

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and filmmaker currently producing a feature film on Annie Londonderry. She lives in New York City and proudly serves on the Board of Directors of New York Women in Film and Television. You can find her on Twitter as @TheLoneOlive

Elise V. Baugh is a Bay Area-based Transmedia Producer and Founder of Innovent Transmedia. Her work has appeared at Sundance Film Festival, The Sheffield Doc Fest, the Brooklyn Museum and Oakland Museum of California. Her work has also received support & recognition from TFI and The Sheffield Doc Fest. Follow: @elisevbaugh

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