About Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was an exceptionally talented journalist. Born as Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864 in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, she developed early on an interest in writing and eventually became a professional journalist.


In the early 1880s, Bly submitted a racy response to an editorial piece that had been published in the Pittsburgh Dispatch. Writer Erasmus Wilson claimed that women were best served by conducting to their domestic duties, and he called working women a monstrosity. Bly’s fierce response grabbed the attention of the paper’s managing director, George Madden, who instantly offered her a position. Thus, her journalistic career had begun.


So her writing career began in 1885 for the Pittsburgh Dispatch. She earned $5 per week. Her main focus was to highlight the negative consequences of sexist ideologies and the importance of women’s rights issues. She became a renowned investigative and undercover reporter, for example by posing as a sweatshop worker in order to expose poor working conditions for women.  In 1888, Bly wrote Six Months in Mexico, describing her time as a foreign correspondent in Mexico in 1885. She explored the culture and customs at the time. She moved to New York City soon after and began working for the New York World. One of her very first assignments led her to Blackwell’s Island where she pretended to be a mental patient in order to become access to an asylum in order to accurately report on the conditions at the facility. This 10 day undercover reporting job gained her national fame. This work was compiled into a book, Ten Days in a Mad House (1887). In 1889, the same paper sent her on a 72 days trip around the world, just like Jule Verne’s Phileas Fogg. For her months-long trip, Bly earned international fame overnight. Her report was turned into a book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890).


In 1895, Bly married millionaire industrialist Robert Seaman. Around this time, she retired temporarily from journalism. She reentered the newspaper industry by working for the New York Evening Journal in 1920, and reported on numerous events, including the growing women’s suffrage movement.


Bly died in 1922 at the age of 57 in New York City.


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