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Nellie Bly fakes insanity, exposes women’s lunatic asylum

Posted by: | October 12, 2011 | No Comment |

Nellie Bly’s story sounds like it should be turned into a box office hit.  A striking young woman fakes insanity to expose a mental institution from within.  A little “Shutter Island” mixed with, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Credit: Nellieblyonline.com

Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran.  She was given the name by her editor who refused to openly let a female write for his paper.

Nellie wasn’t interested in writing about typical women’s topics, so she faked insanity to investigate reports of neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s island.  She was very convincing and was instantly declared hopelessly insane.  This in itself is a commentary on the lack of expertise and credibility of the asylum.

Nellie reported in her book, “Ten Days in a Mad-House” that the facility was in such bad shape that a person would go insane from living there for an extended amount of time.  This included exposure to extreme temperatures, violent and cruel treatment from the staff, and rotten food.  The asylum was operating during the late 1800s, during which time the FDA was still developing its policies and didn’t have much jurisdiction.


http://www.nellieblyonline.com/ Nellie being examined and found, “insane.”

I wonder if a man during the 19th century would have been willing to sacrifice their well-being and safety to expose the corruption of an asylum without any benefit for them.


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