The Return of Nellie Bly in 1889

On this day in 1889 Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (1864-1922) a 25-year-old reporter, received a hero’s welcome in Jersey City for circumnavigating the globe in 72 days.

Nellie Bly is my favorite character in U. S. history and the mother of investigative journalism. She had a difficult childhood. After her father, a judge, died when Nellie was 6, she was abused by a step-father and later worked long hours in a boarding house with her mother after their divorce. Her first piece of writing was a rebuttal of an article in the Pittsburg Dispatch urging girls to stay at home. The editor was so impressed, he offered her a job, under the name of Nellie Bly.

Nellie drew from her experiences to write about the poor, factory workers, and the disadvantages of women in divorce proceedings. When businesses threatened to pull their advertising from the Dispatch, Nellie was assigned a garden piece. She turned it in with her resignation.

Nellie was always drawn to exposing corruption. Her next adventure was to be a travelogue to Mexico. However, it turned into a scathing exposé of President Porfirio Diaz and the Mexican government. In 1887, at age 23, she went to New York where for four months she looked vainly for journalistic work. Nearly penniless, she finally convinced The New York World to let her go undercover in the Blackwell Island insane asylum where she experienced the filth and abuse of that institution for ten days before she was rescued by The World. Her report prompted changes at Blackwell and among the mentally ill in general.

Her most famous adventure began in 1889 when she set off to beat the fictional Fileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s novel, by circumnavigating the world in less than 80 days.

(Summarized from Nellie Bly Online  a website dedicated to this amazing woman.)


This image is a board game published in The New York World on January 26, 1890 and is in the public domain because its first publication was prior to 1923.


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