Little Bits of History

Nellie Bly – Woman Journalist

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 14, 2010

Nellie Bly in 1890

November 14, 1889: Nellie Bly, working for the New York City newspaper, NY World, leaves on a trip around the world. Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was born in 1864, a spunky child who usually dressed in pink and was therefore called “Pink.” She became a writer in her native Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. However, she was given lowly, “women’s topic” writing assignments and left in a huff. She arrived in New York City and began to write for NY World. She was given the byline Nellie Bly to protect her reputation because reporting was not considered a respectable job for a woman.

Her first major assignment was in 1887 when she got herself admitted to an insane asylum and remained incarcerated for ten days. She wrote a blistering expose about the poor food, inadequate clothing, cruel staff, and total lack of anything that resembled care. Her book, Ten Days in a Mad-House caused enough uproar to garner a $850,000 increase in funding and an overhaul of treatment regimens.

In 1888, the editors of NY World planned to cash in on Jules Verne’s blockbuster Around the World in Eighty Days. They intended to send a man around the world in fewer days. Nellie Bly insisted that she be given the assignment. She made it around the world in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds – a world record that would be broken within a few more months.

The World printed a game about her trip in their paper that was made into a board game by the McLaughlin Brothers. Her major ports of call included: Hoboken, New Jersey [her starting point]; London; Amiens, France where she met Jules Verne and his wife; Brindisi, Italy where she caught a steamer; Port Sied, Egypt; Singapore; Hong Kong; San Francisco; and back to Hoboken. She also paid visits in Paris, Berlin, Naples, Moscow, Constantinople, Athens, Aden, Jerusalem, Bombay, Calcutta, Manila, Yokohama, and Chicago. Bon Voyage.

“It is quite possible to buy tickets in New York for the entire trip, but I thought that I might be compelled to change my route at almost any point, so the only transportation I had provided on leaving New York was my ticket to London.”

“I looked as long as I could at the people on the pier. I did not feel as happy as I have at other times in life. I had a sentimental longing to take farewell of everything. ‘I am off,’ I thought sadly, ‘and shall I ever get back?’”

“There is nothing like plenty of food to preserve health. I know that cup of coffee saved me from a headache that day. I had been shaking with the cold as we made our hurried drive through London, and my head was so dizzy at times that I hardly knew whether the earth had a chill or my brains were attending a ball. When I got comfortable seated in the train I began to feel warmer and more stable.”

“To so many people this wide world over am I indebted for kindnesses that I cannot, in a little book like this, thank them all individually. They form a chain around the earth. To each and all of you, men, women and children, in my land and in the lands I visited, I am most truly grateful. Every kind act and thought, if but an unuttered wish, a cheer, a tiny flower, is imbedded in my memory as one of the pleasant things of my novel tour.” – all from Nellie Bly’s book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

“People say you have to travel to see the world. sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle.” – Paul Auster

Also on this day, in 1957 the Mafia held a large meeting in Apalachin, New York.

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