View Full Version : Tuesday Trivia: Nellie Bly

Star lover
April 17th, 2018, 06:55 AM
Nellie Bly is most famous for her 72-day solo trip around the world in 1889, recreating the journey and beating the pace described in Jules Verne's novel "Around the World in 80 Days."


Born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane [Seaman] (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922), she was better known by her pen name Nellie Bly.


But she made a greater contribution to investigative journalism with her 1887 expose "Ten Days in a Mad-House." Faking mental illness, she had herself committed to a women's mental hospital "with a view to writing a plain and unvarnished narrative of the treatment of the patients," as she later said.


Her description of the deplorable conditions faced by patients led to significant reforms in mental health care.

In 1880 Cochrane's mother moved her family to Pittsburgh, following the death of her father. A newspaper column entitled "What Girls Are Good For" in the Pittsburgh Dispatch that reported that girls were principally for birthing children and keeping house prompted Elizabeth to write a response under the pseudonym "Lonely Orphan Girl".

The editor, George Madden, was impressed with her passion and ran an advertisement asking the author to identify herself. When Cochrane introduced herself to the editor, he offered her the opportunity to write a piece for the newspaper, again under the pseudonym "Lonely Orphan Girl".

Her first article for the Dispatch, entitled "The Girl Puzzle", was about how divorce affected women. In it, she argued for reform of divorce laws. Madden was impressed again and offered her a full-time job.

It was customary for women who were newspaper writers at that time to use pen names. The editor chose "Nellie Bly", adopted from the title character in the popular song "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster. Cochrane originally intended that her pseudonym be "Nelly Bly", but her editor wrote "Nellie" by mistake and the error stuck.

In 1887, Bly relocated to New York City and began working for the New York World, the publication that later became famously known for spearheading "yellow journalism." One of Bly's earliest assignments was to author a piece detailing the experiences endured by patients of the infamous mental institution on Blackwell's Island (now Roosevelt Island) in New York City. In an effort to accurately expose the conditions at the asylum, she pretended to be a mental patient in order to be committed to the facility, where she lived for 10 days.

Bly's exposé, published in the World soon after her return to reality, was a massive success. The piece shed light on a number of disturbing conditions at the facility, including neglect and physical abuse, and, along with spawning her book on the subject, ultimately spurred a large-scale investigation of the institution.

In 1895, Bly married millionaire manufacturer Robert Seaman. Bly was 31 and Seaman was 73 when they married. Due to her husband's failing health, she retired from journalism and succeeded her husband as head of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co., which made steel containers such as milk cans and boilers. In 1904, Seaman died.

Bly died of pneumonia at St. Mark's Hospital in New York City in 1922 at age 57. She was interred in a modest grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.


April 17th, 2018, 08:46 AM
Wow. What a fascinating woman. She was definitely ahead of her time. It's good that sh e was able to pursue her passions.

She lived life without limits, something everyone should be able to do.

April 17th, 2018, 09:18 AM
That is very interesting! She was a very courageous lady. Thank you very much!

April 17th, 2018, 09:56 AM
Very interesting indeed, thank you.

April 17th, 2018, 10:31 AM
amazing. You know, we all think we are so liberated as women today, but your trivia this year has encompassed a woman building an airplane and learning to fly in just 4 hours of training, and now this. Women of the early 1900's were brave and out there. Then it appears something happened ...(perhaps the depression) that put them back into "girl work". Then WWII got some of them back out into the exploring phase.

April 17th, 2018, 10:32 AM
Thank you, for posting this article. She certainly was a courageous and brave woman.

April 17th, 2018, 12:43 PM
Very interesting. I was thinking that ,that would make a great movie and sure enough it was made into a few with another in the works. One is free on Amazon Prime. It is based on the mad house portion of her life. I added it to my list!

April 19th, 2018, 05:04 PM
Thanks for posting this info. I have been looking for something inspiring to read, and you helped me make this choice. I've borrowed the book about her life and look forward to a great read.