“I am a journalist and a ‘new woman’, if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.”
Annie Cohen Kopchovsky was born into a Jewish family in (or around) 1870, and her family emigrated to the United States when she was a child. She married Max Kopchovsky in 1888 and soon had three children under four years of age. She was all set to be an ordinary wife and mother, but Annie was obviously turned from a different mould. In June 1894, she set of on a bicycle, a change of clothes, and a pearl-handled revolver, to make an epic around the world ride.The Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company paid her $100 to carry its placard on her bike.As part of the marketing promotion, Annie changed her surname to Londonderry.
Not everything went according to plan. During the journey, Annie found her skirts tiresome and converted to wearing bloomers. As well, she found her woman’s 19kg Columbia bicycle too cumbersome, and swapped it for a much lighter men’s Sterling bicycle that weight just under 10kg. She switched her route. However, she managed to ride around the world in 15 months.
Of course, Annie’s feat of endurance had several repercussions. She became one of the first women athletes to earn a living from her physical endeavours. She make bicycling fashionable among adventurous young women, particularly suffragists and suffragettes. She popularised the idea of the ‘New Woman’, writing for the New York World under the name of ‘The New Woman’; the New Woman was a pro-feminist ideal of an independent woman with the same rights and liberties as a man.
Sad to say, Annie wasn’t able to keep her fame alive. However, her achievements did have a lasting impact on our culture, particularly in proving women were just as adventurous and athletic as men. With her as inspiration, any Steampunk female protagonist should be a keen cyclist, if nothing else.