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Nellie Bly

Posted by: | November 27, 2012 | No Comment |

Nellie Bly, born in 1864 as Elizabeth Jane Cochran, broke barriers for women journalists in the 19th century. Bly began using her pen name after she responded to a popular column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch entitled “What Girls are Good For” that said the woman belonged in the home doing domestic chores and should not look for work elsewhere. George Madden, the editor of the Dispatch, soon offered Cochran a full-time job, in which she would write under the name Nelly Bly.

Most women at this time in the journalism business wrote about gardening or fashion, but Bly stepped out of these boundaries and wrote about issues affecting the working class. Bly resigned from the Dispatch when her articles caused controversy from the advertisers and she was re-assigned to a gardening article. She then went to Mexico with her mother and began to write about injustices taking place in the government there. With the threat of  her arrest in Mexico, she returned to the United States.

Bly then moved to New York City in search of a job. She eventually find one at Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and pretended to be insane so she could investigate the conditions on Blackwell Island’s insane asylum. Bly spent 10 days at the asylum and then published a series of articles about her experiences. Bly reported that the food was ill and women were required to sit all day on straight back benches and were beaten if they moved. She also said that many women were not actually insane and were just dropped at the insane asylum by their husbands who didn’t want them. Her series of articles about the asylum were published to make Ten Days in a Mad-House.

Photo Courtesy of http://digital.library.upenn.edu.


Bly broke barriers for women journalists, especially with her journey around the world in 72 days.



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