Nellie Bly was an American journalist whose real name was Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She used the name ‘Nellie Bly’ for her newspaper articles so that people who read her articles would not know her real name.
Nellie also became famous for travelling around the world in 72 days and she set the world record at that time.
She was in many ways very different from any other journalists as she took many risks so that she could investigate issues. For example, she
pretended that she was insane so she would be put in a hospital, so that she could later write about how hospitals treated mentally ill people.
She created a new kind of journalism in the way she investigated things and spread important information around the world. Not only was she a writer, she did a lot of work for charity as well.
4 facts about Nellie Bly:
She name "Nellie Bly" comes from a song called "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster.
Before entering the insane asylum, Nellie spent six months in Mexico writing about the Mexican people. She upset the government with one of her articles and had to flee the country.
A competing paper sent their own reporter to try and beat Nellie in her race around the world. The other reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, went the opposite way around the world, but arrived four days later.
She received patents for several inventions including a stacking garbage can and an innovative milk can.
“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”
“I said I could and I would. And I did.”
“It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.”
Nellie Bly Biography
Nellie was born on May 5, 1864 in a city called Cochran’s Millis in the United States. Nellie lived on a big farm with her parents Michael Cochran and Mary Kane and her siblings.
Nellie started boarding school but had to drop out after only one term since her parents did not have enough money to pay for the school.
In 1880, the family moved to Pittsburgh. She read something in the newspaper ‘Dispatch’, called: “What Girls Are Good For” which was very negative towards women and girls. This made Nellie very upset so she wrote an angry letter to the newspaper and signed it “The Lonely Orphan Girl”.
The boss of the newspapers became very impressed with Nellie and her letter, so he asked her if she would write another article for the newspaper, which she did.
Nellie Bly being examined by a psychiatrist
Becoming a journalist
Nellie stayed at the newspaper in Pittsburgh for a while and wrote many pieces on women and their lives.
She wrote one article where she investigated women who work long hours at factories, but her boss wanted her to write more about fashion and gardening. But Nellie wanted to take risks and write about important problems for women.
When she was 21 years old, she went to Mexico to be a correspondent and bring news from Mexico back home. She wrote about journalists being put in prison for writing in Mexico and about the cruel dictator Porfirio Díaz.
Nellie then wrote a book about called “Six Months in Mexico”. The police in Mexico threatened to arrest Nellie so she had to leave and come back to the United States.
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A risky article
Nellie left Pittsburgh in 1887 and went to New York. Nellie got a job at the newspaper “New York World” where they wanted her to find out how it was to be mentally ill and treated at a hospital.
Nellie made herself seem sick so that doctors would put her in a mental hospital, where she would write about how they treated her. The doctors immediately said she was insane, even though she was not really sick.
In the hospital they gave the patients very poor food and dirty drinking water. The hospital was dirty and had rats running around. The nurses beat the patients and called them bad names. Nellie was let out of the hospital after ten days and then wrote a book called: “Ten Days in a Mad-House”.
After Nellie’s book the mental hospitals were given more money to make them better and also had people coming over more often to check if everything was working well. Nellie’s book helped improve many hospitals all over America and helped patients to be treated better.
Nellie the traveler
In 1888 Nellie asked her boss at the newspaper “New York World” if she could take a trip around the world. There had been a famous book which was called: “Around the World in Eighty Days” and Nellie wanted to beat that record and travel the world in 72 days.
On November 14, 1889 she started her trip around the world. She only brought the dress she was wearing, a coat and some underwear. Other newspapers joined in on the competition and sent other journalists to beat Nellie to the finish line. Readers could also write in and guess when they thought Nellie would arrive.
During her journey, Nellie went through many countries, like England, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and many more. After 72 days Nellie arrived in New York and had a world record.
A publicity photograph taken by the New York World newspaper to promote Nellie Bly’s around-the-world voyage
Nellie the pioneer
After marrying her husband Robert Seaman in 1895 she became the boss of a big company, which made steel containers like milk cans and boilers. She was at that time one of the most powerful women within the business in the Untied States.
She continued to write stories and wrote many reports on the First World War. Nellie died of pneumonia in New York in 1922 when she was 57 years old.
Nellie became one of the most important female writers of her time and became famous for all the risks she took and her many articles about women’s rights. She was intelligent and was not afraid to try something new and to tell the truth.
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