Nellie Bly, pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, was an American journalist who launched a new kind of investigative journalism. She broke the record of Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg from “Around the World in 80 Days” by famously globe-trotting, at 25 and unchaperoned, in 72 days. Bly also faked insanity for an undercover assignment to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
Bly inspired many women over the years including Jean Marie Lutes, English professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and co-director of Villanova’s Gender and Women’s Studies program. Lutes took readers “around the world with Nellie Bly” by editing and annotating “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings.” The book spans her remarkable career, from 1885 to some of her last reports from the front lines in World War I and, finally, an advice columnist.” The book was released this year on the 150th anniversary of Bly’s birth.
“Inside the Madhouse,” her account of her 10 days posing as an inmate, “inspired a whole slew of imitators,” Lutes said. “Women were considered less brave, less smart. The ‘girl’ before the name was a diminutive,” she said, noting that there had been stunt reporting by male journalists. Bly “turned the tables and profited” from the designation.”
All in all, Lutes’ goal with the book was to bring awareness to many people today, especially women, of how brave Nellie Bly had been and how some of her opinions are still very significant in today’s world.