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Woman’s 19th century, round-the-world adventure will come to life in Portland

Posted by on July 2nd, 2008 at 10:38 am

Cover of, Around the World on Two Wheels.

In a city with its share of adventurous, daring, eccentric, bike-riding women, the story of Annie Londonderry feels right at home.

In 1894, Ms. Londonderry (her real name was Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) embarked on an audacious journey — a solo bicycle ride around the world.

Her expedition was lost to history until her great grand-nephew, journalist Peter Zheutlin, started digging through old family artifacts, letters, and foreign and domestic newspapers to uncover her story.

And what a story it was.

Thankfully, Zheutlin has published a book about the journey, Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride, and he will be in Portland on July 8th for a bike ride and presentation.

Press materials from the book’s publisher (Citadel Books) put Londonderry’s ride into historical context:

“The journey, set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement, the bicycle craze and an intense period of globalization brought on by advances in communications and transportation technology, illuminates many vital aspects of late 19th century life. Indeed, women of the 1890s saw the bicycle as an implement of personal and political power.”

And the book also illuminates her colorful personality:

“Traveling with only a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver, Annie earned her way, in part, by turning her bicycle and her body into a mobile billboard [she took the name Londonderry because she was sponsored Londonderry Water Company!], carrying advertising banners and ribbons through the streets of cities around the world… She was outlandish, outrageous, radical and charismatic and she set out to do what no woman had done before.”

It sounds like an inspiring and entertaining story. You can hear more about Ms. Londonderry at the author’s presentation next week. The event will begin with a leisurely bike ride from NW Portland to Waterfront Park and is sponsored by Annie Blooms Books, Lakeside Bicycles and several Jewish cultural organizations.

Here are the details:

    Author Peter Zheutlin presents his book, Around the World on Two Wheels
    July 8th
    6:00 – Bike Ride, 7:30 – Presentation
    Congregation Beth Israel
    1972 NW Flanders
    Portland, OR 97209
    RSVP: Hadassah 503-244-6389 or info@portlandhadassah.org

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7 Comments
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    Andrew July 2, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Super cool.

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    a.O July 2, 2008 at 10:51 am

    We need more women (and men) like Annie Cohen Kopchovsky these days.

    I love, \”Traveling with only a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver…\” That\’s really all you need, isn\’t it?

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    Kris July 2, 2008 at 11:08 am

    The book is a great read, indeed. Very inspiring! I love how these stories put many modern-day sport/adventure feats in perspective.

    One small correction: it\’s Annie Londonderry, not berry :o)

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    erin g. July 2, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I recently completed this book and am passing it along to a girlfriend; she\’s a writer, an adventurer, and will love the story of \”Annie Londonderry!” Thanks for getting the word out about this fascinating tale of a revolutionary woman, Jonathan. This character shaped the early era of cycling and sports marketing.

    The book contains amazing historical context about turn-of-the-century social conditions. Can you imagine riding a century in a heavy wool dress, petticoats, and corset? No wonder Annie shocked the world by switching to “scandalous” knickers that showed the “curves” of her “feminine form.” I wonder what the Victorians would have thought of today’s cycling wear, such as spandex and the “sugar shorts” made popular by a certain member of Team Beer (who happens to be a male).

    The book also contains quotes from suffragist leader, Susan B. Anthony, who declared the bicycle a symbol of freedom and empowerment for repressed, restricted women of the day. As I read the book, I thought about why I find cycling to be the best way to get out and experience the world in these modern times.

    Finally, this book highlights an era where bikes were numerous on U.S. roads and highways. I wasn’t aware of the fact that millions of people purchased and enjoyed bikes during what was a boom period in cycling history. Farmers got angry when wayfaring wheelmen spooked their cart mules! Now, compare that to today’s brand of shared road conflict.

    This is a great a reminder of the fact that our roads were not originally designed to primarily accommodate cars, which serves as great fuel (no pun intended!) for all sorts of commuters and road users to reclaim the streets that belong to us all.

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    jordan July 2, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    is her name londonDerry or londonBerry?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    londonDerry.. sorry. my mistakes. corrected now.

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    Donald July 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Reminds me at once of two of my favorite books ever: Judas at the Jockey Club and Miles From Nowhere.

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