Described as “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman,” Annie’s odyssey was reportedly set in motion by a wager made by two wealthy clubmen in Boston. Her challenge was to circle the globe by bicycle in 15 months, earning $5,000 en route. This was not only a test of a woman’s physical endurance and mental fortitude, but also of her ability to fend for herself in a man’s world. In June 1894, Annie Kopchovksy set out from the steps of the Boston Statehouse to prove the men wrong and to score a victory for the “new woman.” At first blush, it would be hard to imagine a more unlikely candidate for such a trip than Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, the 23-year old Jewish immigrant who pedaled out of Boston, leaving her husband and three small children behind. Yet despite having never ridden a bicycle before, Annie proved remarkably well equipped for the journey. A self-taught master of public relations, Annie was a consummate self-promoter and a skillful creator of her own myth. Paid $100 by the Londonderry Spring Water Company to carry its placard on her bike, the company also contracted with Annie to adopt their name as a promotion. 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, carrying advertising banners and ribbons around the world. When she returned to Boston in 1895, she had transformed into Annie “Londonderry,” the bloomer-clad, PR-savvy, international celebrity. After the trip was over, Annie moved her family to New York where, under the byline “The New Woman,” she wrote sensational features for the New York World. Her first story was an account of her cycling adventures. “I am a journalist and ’a new woman,’” she wrote, “if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.” Though Annie became a global sensation in the mid-1890s, she has otherwise been forgotten by history for more than a century. The New Woman: Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, resurrects Annie’s amazing journey and introduces her, for the first time in more than 119 years to American film audiences.
To learn much more about Annie and Peter Zheutlin— Annie’s great-grandnephew and the man who uncovered her amazing story— go to www.annielondonderry.com.
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