AROUND THE WORLD ON TWO WHEELS by Peter Zheutlin

AROUND THE WORLD ON TWO WHEELS

Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The adventures of the first woman to bicycle around the world, chronicled by Zheutlin, her great grandnephew.

According to the author, few benefited more from the invention of the bicycle than women. Condemned in previous generations to mere perambulation, by the end of the 19th century they were free to move rapidly, independently and inexpensively on two wheels. On June 25, 1894, inspired by the growing masses of lady cyclists, 23-year-old Annie Cohen Kopchovsky left her husband and three children in their Boston home and set off to find fame, muscle fatigue and mad confabulation. For the trip (and $100), she assumed the surname Londonderry and placed an ad for the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company on her rear wheel guard; her pseudonym had the added advantage of masking her Jewish identity. Annie, who learned to ride a bicycle just weeks before her departure, often claimed that she undertook the journey as the result of a bet made by two wealthy Boston businessmen—they wagered no woman could make the same voyage that Thomas Stevens had completed a decade earlier. But she wasn’t necessarily a reliable source: Feeding the voracious appetite of the popular press for information on her background, she variously claimed to be a physician, a Harvard student, a lawyer and an heiress. What appears to be true is that Annie, an ardent individualist, had a taste for fame and a talent for public relations; she invented whatever tale would best keep people’s interest. The woman behind the stories often seems an enigma in Zheutlin’s account. What it lacks in personal insight, however, it compensates for with discussions of public reaction to a female adventurer, the origins of sports endorsements and the debate over whether women should have been allowed to ride at all. For a time, special seats were constructed to ensure that they didn’t become sexually aroused by the act of bicycling.

A pleasant, affectionate portrait of a free spirit who pedaled her way out of Victorian constraints.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8065-2851-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Citadel/Kensington
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2007




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