Around The World On Two Wheels

The Green Girl just finished reading 'Around The World On Two Wheels' by Peter Zheutlin.

The author, Peter Zheutlin, is the great-grandnephew of the main character, Annie Londonderry.

The book attempts to chronicle Londonderry's bicycle trip around the world by sifting through fact and fiction.

Annie Londonderry with her Columbia bike by the Crown Studio, Boston, MA
On June 25, 1894, Annie Londonderry, née Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, left her home in Boston with a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver to become the first women to cycle around the world. She left behind her husband and three small children.

Londonderry claimed this journey was set in motion by a wager between two Boston businessmen. The challenge was to circle the globe by bicycle in 15 months while earning $5,000 along the way.

Zheutlin places a great deal of emphasis on Londonderry's ability to forge a unique identity amidst the Victorian notion of female propriety.

The author also draws parallels to the rising popularity of the bicycle among women and the fight for equality. In the book, Susan B. Anthony was quoted in a newspaper as saying 'bicycling had done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world'.

To earn money, Londonderry sold photographs of herself, made appearances, and rented advertisement space on her bike and clothing. She also acquired money through sponsorships.

Advertisement for Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company
She changed her last name from Kopchovsky to Londonderry in exchange for $100 from the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company.

In this regard, she could be purported to have been the first sponsored female athlete.

According to Zheutlin, Londonderry 'never let the facts stand in the way of a good story' and the timeline of her journey was riddled with inconsistencies and improbabilities.

The book was certainly a fascinating read but certain passages became tiresome as the author repeatedly insisted on pointing out Londonderry's propensity for telling tall tales and her uncanny ability to charm and influence people.


  1. Great review! I'll be on the lookout for this book.

  2. interesting ... she pedaled across the Atlantic but didn't pedal from San Francisco to Chicago (I'm assuming the direction) - lazy.

    The book is along the kind of books I read. I'm going to pickup "Wolf: The Lives of Jack London" next ... maybe I should pick up yours!

  3. If I hand out pictures of myself running, do you think I'll get endorsements and sponsorships? Oh man, how I wish. And I'm sorry about your insurance woes...I feel your pain! How are you feeling in preps for Athens???

  4. Sounds like a great book. (Andrew, I will be curious to find out if Jack London was, as I heard, quite overweight and had not had any adventures at all, except for listening to stories of Alaska gold rush gang).
    Getting back to the post:

    "Londonderry's propensity for telling tall tales and her uncanny ability to charm and influence people. "

    I wonder if those were really tall tales of just a male perception that there is no way a woman could do the things Annie did.

    I will be certainly checking this book out. Thanks for the review.

  5. I'm definitely going to check it out! I love that Susan B Anthony quote.

  6. Never heard of her, but sounds like a great read! I love hearing about women who could turn things upside down back then.

  7. I have this book and haven't started it yet!! Thanks for prompting me to open it!

    AND thanks so much for the awesome comments on my blog!! :)

  8. "The first sponsored female athlete"???
    Inspiring! Thanks for sharing Mary :-)

  9. Andrew, Londonderry made quite a few interesting route and timing decisions with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

    Jill, so far the training for Athens has been going really well, thanks for asking.

    Ewa, it seemed evident that she loved to fabricate stories to get attention but once that character trait was established, I didn't feel it was necessary to reiterate it time and time again.

  10. Thanks for writing about Annie Londonderry. I live here in Londonderry, across the street from the Lithia Spring Water site. I also blogged about the book last year http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2009/11/annie-londonderry-and-her-extraordinary.html She is famous here, but it's nice to know she is known outside of Londonderry!


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