A journalist and activist, famous for her journey around the world on a bicycle.
Annie Cohen emigrated from Riga to the United States as a child. She was married to Max Kopchovsky and had three little children, when she stumbled upon an opportunity to become rich and famous, and promote feminism, all together. At the decade of America’s bicycle hype, she took on the challenge presented by two Boston businessmen to be the first woman to cycle around the world. Without prior cycling experience, she set for the road in 1894.
15 months later, she returned home as an international sensation, even though she skipped large parts of the journey by sailing.
Her biggest talent was for storytelling: she reported back about a range of exotic and mostly fictitious adventures. Nonetheless, the gift of imagination secured her a series of lectures and a newspaper column upon her return.
Another skill which she demonstrated was entrepreneurship: she adopted the name Londonderry as part of a paid sponsorship by a water company and used herself and her bike as a mobile billboard in France.
At the end of the 19th century, Annie Londonderry was an icon of the “new woman” – an independent, liberated, and self-reliant person. Her story was soon forgotten, but after her great-grandnephew discovered that her brief death notice in the 1947 New York Times read: “devoted grandmother of Mary”, he published a book about her, 60 years after her death.
“I am a journalist and ‘a new woman,’ if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- She began the journey wearing a skirt, but later changed into the then-controversial bloomers and to men’s suit – which gave rise to some accusations of her not being a woman at all.
- She told various false background stories to the press about herself: being an orphan, an heiress, a medical student, and a lawyer.
- In addition to making up some of her exotic “reports”, she also staged a photograph of herself being robbed near San Francisco during her journey.
- Her suitcase for the journey contained a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver.
- Her award for completing the journey was 10 times the annual average salary at the time.