Her Grandmother Girdled the Globe on a Cycle

Documentarians Spin Into Larchmont to Meet the Cyclist's Kin

by David Cruz

Bike and Bloomers
On their way to Larchmont and beyond: Peter Zheutlin, Gillian Klempner, Meghan Shea and Gary Sanderson mixed modern and antique gear as they recreated Annie Londonderry's 1894 ride.

(August 31, 2006) Larchmont's Mary Goldiner, 71, is a constant traveler, but nothing like her maternal grandmother who at age 23 changed her name, donned a pair of bloomers and rode off from her Boston home to “girdle the globe” on a bicycle tour. The last living relative to have actually known Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, Ms. Goldiner was visited on August 19 by a crew of bikers and documentarians who were riding through Larchmont on a mini-recreation of that famous ride.

It was more than 100 years ago, on October 20, 1895, that Annie Cohen Kopchovsky become the first woman ever to travel the world on a bicycle. Supposedly, the ride was in response to a wager by two wealthy Boston clubmen. Did a woman have the physical endurance and mental fortitude to ride around the world? And could she return having earned $5000 in cash to prove a woman could fend for herself in a man’s world? For meeting the challenge (or convincingly claiming she had), Ms. Kopchovsky won $10,000 dollars in donations from New York newspapers. Her globetrotting adventure became the talk of the world and was a harbinger of the modern women’s liberation movement.

Paul and Mary Goldiner (in white slacks) along with family and friends were host to the bikers and documentarians recreating the first leg of Annie Londonderry's 1894 ride around the world.

The adventure continues today for Mary Goldiner, who helped pay tribute to her late grandmother’s exploits by participating in a documentary entitled The New Woman: The Life and Times of Annie ‘Londonderry’ Kopchovsky. The documentary is being produced by Spokeswoman Productions with the help of Ms. Kopchovsky’s great grandnephew, Peter Zheutlin. To promote the documentary, Spokeswoman Production’s Gillian Klempner, 25, and Meghan Shea, 24, recreated the first leg of the Londonderry journey by cycling through four states clad in modernized bloomers.

The entourage made a special stop in Larchmont on the last day of the bike tour to visit with Mary Goldiner. “She was a very bright, amusing lady,” said Ms. Goldiner, recalling her grandmother. “I was in awe of her.”

By the time Annie Kopchovsky died, when her granddaughter was 16, there had been ample opportunity to share her inspirational tales. After circling the globe and returning to her husband and three children, Ms. Kopchovsky became a journalist, writing for the New York World under the byline “The New Women” and, in her later years, owned two lingerie factories.

“She loved to observe and adventure,” said Ms. Goldiner. “You couldn’t stop her, nobody could, not even my grandfather.”

And while Ms. Goldiner can’t begin to estimate the influence her grandmother had on her, she knows a touch of Kopchovsky lives on in her, especially now that she’s a grandmother herself.

“Mary Goldiner knows how to work a room and tell a story, the way her grandmother could,” affirmed Gillian Klempner.

“I think I am more like my grandmother than I realize,” said Ms. Goldiner. “I’m more outrageous than my generation.”

The modern bloomers and head gear worn by Meghan Shea and Gillian Klempner are a far cry from Ms. Londonderry's 1894 outift.