Women on Bikes!
March is Women’s History Month.
In 2011 Sue Macy wrote a book, “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)
This book, published by National Geographic, tracks the impact of the BIKE on Women and how it changed women’s lives back in the 90s… the EIGHTEEN 90s…
The Foreword is written by Leah Missbach Day who, with her husband, founded WBR – World Bicycle Relief – after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In the next few years WBR put over 24,000 bicycles into the hands of folks in Sri Lanka who were trying to rebuild their lives after the devastating tsunami. Since 2006 WBR has worked out of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Ms. Day notes that while the book Wheels of Change is about the history of Bikes & Women, the bicycle TODAY continues to empower women. WBR has changed the lives of men and women simply by getting them this basic, efficient beautiful transportation. “Freedom comes in many forms… A bicycle can cultivate independence…” In 1896 Ellen Parkhurst said “A girl who rides a wheel is lifted out of herself and her surroundings” – That was true in 1896 and WBR continues to show that that is true today…
The bicycle – it can change the World!
You can read Wheels of Change here –
This month I’ll be dropping some History Bombs on you from the Women’s Wing of the BikeLawyer’s Big Bike Book Library this month… Fun stuff [bloomers and Love and what not] and serious stuff [Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky’s trip around the world – Kitty Knox’s battles for admission into the L.A.W. as an African-American woman] – LOTS to talk about in March!
The bike, or as Louise Smith called it “The Devil’s Advance Agent” changed the world for women in the 1890s –
“To Men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play… to women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world…” – “Woman And The Wheel” – May 1896, Munsey’s Magazine…
Annie Kopchovsky was a Jewish immigrant living in Boston with her husband in 1894 when she heard about a bet that changed her life. Two wealthy Boston sugar merchants bet that a woman could not ride around the world on a bicycle as a man, Thomas Stevens, had done a few years earlier. Annie took that bet. The terms required her to start with no money – “only the clothes on my back” – and ride around the world- finishing with the staggering sum of $5,000 in her pockets.
She did it- rode her wheel around the world – and became probably the first female athlete in the world the earn endorsements and enter the world of sports marketing… so much so that in exchange for a sum she carried the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company placard on her bike… and changed her name to Annie Londonderry…
She started the ride in Boston wearing typical Victorian-era garb while riding a 42 pound Columbia wheel… as she rode through Chicago she was given a Schwinn resistance exercise bike more suited to her travels. Peter Zheutlin tracked down the details of Annie’s ride… Annie was his great aunt… and wrote about it in an excellent book “Anni Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride: Around The World on Two Wheels” – we’ll take a ride through the book this month as we follow Annie around the world!