Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Women's History Month: Nellie Bly


In honor of Women's History Month, I will be doing special posts in honor of women throughout history. One of which will be: every Wednesday in the month of March I will profile an extraordinary woman who you may not have heard of. Today's profile is on:

Nellie Bly

Name: Nellie Bly (Real name: Elizabeth Jane Cochran)
DOB/DOD: May 5, 1864 - January 27, 1922
Nationality: American
Occupation: Journalist
What she was known for: Faking insanity to discover the cruel treatments of mental hospitals and a record breaking trip around the world.

As a journalist for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, Bly got the job for writing a rebuttal to a sexist column. However, as a woman, the editors tried to force her writing to the 'woman's pages'. I.E. Fashion, society, etc, but Bly wanted to focus her work on the struggling working woman: servants and factory workers.

In 1887, Bly had moved to New York and obtained a job at the New York World where she received a spectacular assignment: Fake insanity and become admitted to a mad house. During a ten day stay at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island, Bly composed enough information to write an expose entitled Ten Days in a Mad-House, where she outlined the cruel and inhumane treatment of patients. This forced an almost one million dollar increase in funds for the care of the insane.

In 1888, Bly sought out to make Around the World in Eighty Days a reality by taking a trip around the world. She completed a 24,899 mile journey in Seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds and did it all mostly unchaperoned.

After marrying in 1895, she became President of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. In 1904 she invented the the steel barrel that was the model for the 55-gallon oil drum. However, forced into bankruptcy, Bly returned to journalism, covering the Women's Suffrage Convention and WWI.

Yesterday, I posted a review of Ten Days in a Mad-House, which you can read here.

You can read Bly's work, including Ten Days in a Mad-House here for free.

Other Reading:

NYCHS: Nellie Bly -- In Blackwell's Island Asylum
The American Exprience | Around the World in 72 Days


Anonymous said...

Your idea of participating in Women's History Month is very interesting. I'll be sure to return to your blog weekly, I love finding out about women like Nellie Bly. Can I ask how you came across her name?

Christy B said...

I came across people talking about Ten Days in a Mad-House on a message board once and that was the first time I came across her name. I love coming across interesting people whom I've never heard of before.