05 May Happy Birthday Blog: Nellie Bly
Elizabeth Jane Cochran “Nellie Bly”
Born: May 5, 1864
Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, USA
Known For: Investigative journalist and writer
Nellie Bly is one of those famous names that many people know, but few people know the story behind. In celebrating her birthday with this blog, we wanted to shed more light on one of America’s first investigative journalists.
Elizabeth was born just outside of Pittsburgh (one of our home bases) and started her journalism career at the age of 16 by writing ‘women’s columns’ for the Pittsburgh dispatch. After spending 6 months reporting from Mexico, she decided to leave Pittsburgh for New York City.
Nellie talked her way into the city room of the New York World, and managed to land one of the biggest news stories of the late 19th century. She got the job by convincing her editors that she would get herself committed to an asylum in order to report on the treatment of prisoners.
Nellie wrote about her experiences in the New York City Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island and her stories were published first in the World and later in a book called “Ten Days in a Mad-House.” The book is still considered very important for the study of inmate psychology and treatment. A few years later, she gained new fame by traveling around the world in 72 days. It was the fastest journey of her time period and shattered the fictional record of Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’
Nellie’s hands-on approach to telling stories is thought by many to be the birth of investigative journalism. Her journalism career ended when she married a millionaire Robert Seaman. Upon his death a few years later in 1905, Nellie took over running his manufacturing company. She patented several new inventions relating to oil manufacturing. She returned to journalism toward the end of her life when she covered both women’s suffrage and the First World War.
For all of her groundbreaking accomplishments, we celebrate Nellie on her birthday!
Learn more about her here.