The author, Annie’s great-grandnephew Peter Zheutlin, has filled his pages with countless news articles from around the globe, many of which, however, indicate that she was at times a sensationalist, not so wed to the truth.
While it becomes clear that she didn’t cycle nearly as much as purported, and likely didn’t get into some of the scuffles she alleged, Annie most certainly demonstrated a brilliant ability to seize authentic adventures and to captivate audiences. She inspired girls and women to become increasingly independent and freethinking, using the bicycle as her vehicle.
Kudos to Annie for embracing the bike! According to Susan B. Anthony, “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”
Whether Annie actually cycled the globe or took steamboats and trains so she could cover more countries, hear more languages and taste more flavors, I appreciate how she quenched her thirst for adventure. We are kindred spirits, Annie and I, with a shared passion for travel, independence and the power of wheels.
In some ways, I feel like she is with me on my journeys. When I cycled the length of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, hydrating on coconuts and rolling from village to village, Annie was surely with me. When I biked the hills of Tuscany to raise money for a domestic violence shelter, I’m sure Annie was cheering me on. And when I wave at Lady Liberty each day on my commute across the Brooklyn Bridge, Annie and her immigrant family are certainly by my side.
I’d like to thank Zheutlin for introducing us to his great-grandaunt. Annie Kopchowsky (Londonderry) and I certainly come from the same sisterhood, curious about the world, and capable of anything.
Chana Widawski, LMSW, chairs her block association, stewards her local park and leads educational travel programs around the globe. She works with survivors of abuse and violence and as a non-profit consultant.