Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nellie Bly

History Sunday again! I first remember hearing about Nellie Bly in a history class I took. I was interested in her story, but I didn't really look further into her. I should have! She had a fascinating life. This week we are going to do something a little different and do her life as a timeline. Tell me how you like it!

MAY 5 1864- Born as Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania. She was nicknamed Pink for wearing that color a lot as a child.

1870- Her father, a wealthy former associate justice, dies.

1879- Pink Cochrane (notice the "e" added to her last name, she added this for sophistication.) enrolls at Indiana State Normal School, Indiana, Pennsylvania. This is a boarding school and she only stays there for one term do to lack of funds.

1880- Elizabeth and her family moved to Pittsburgh.

1885- Elizabeth writes a fiery rebuttal in response to a sexist column written in the Pittsburgh Dispatcher. She writes this to the editor under the name "Lonely Orphan Girl." The editor is so impressed with her spunk and earnestness he hired her. She starts a job at the Pittsburgh Dispatcher, her editor choose the pen name, Nellie Bly, adopted from the title character in the popular song, "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster.

1887- Bly moves to New York and after 4 months is penniless. She talks her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, New York World. She then takes an undercover assignment for which she agreed to pretend to be insane to investigate reports of abuse and neglect at the Woman's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. She went home and practiced crazed expressions in the mirror, before checking herself into a working class boardinghouse. There she refused to go to bed, telling the boarders she is afraid of them and that they look crazy. Then the boarders decided that she was the crazy one, and they called the police. Taken to a courtroom, she pretends to have amnesia. The judge thought that she had been drugged. She was then examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane. "Positively demented," said one, "I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where someone will take care of her." he head of the insane pavilion at Bellevue Hospital pronounced her "undoubtedly insane". The case of the "pretty crazy girl" attracted media attention: "Who Is This Insane Girl?" asked the New York Sun. The New York Times wrote of the "mysterious waif" with the "wild, hunted look in her eyes", and her desperate cry: "I can't remember I can't remember." Click her to read about her, "Ten Days in a Mad-House":

November 14, 1889 to January 25, 1890- Bly suggests to her editor that she try to make Jules Vernes, Around the World in Eighty Days, a reality. It will be a year before she boards a ship, to make the 24,899 mile journey. She makes it in seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds.

1894- Bly reports on the violent Pullman labor strike for New York World.

1895- Nellie marries millionaire manufacturer Robert Seamen, although he was 40 years her senior! She retires from journalism and becomes president of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co.

1904- Her husband Robert Seamen died, and she invented and patented the steel barrel that was the model for the 55-gallon oil drum still in widespread use in United States.

1913- She goes back into reporting, and covers things such as the Women's Suffrage Convention of 1913.

1914- Nellie covers World War I from the trenches in the Eastern European front. She was America's first female war correspondent.

1919- She returns to the U.S. and becomes an advocate for poor children, adoptive parents and other various social causes.

January 27, 1922- Nellie Bly dies of bronchopneumonia at St. Mark's Hospital in New York City. She was 57. She is remembered for her "muckraking" skills and her sympathy for human suffering.

I really enjoyed researching Nellie. What a interesting woman! Thanks to Wikipedia and Nellie Bly Online for their great resources on this amazing lady.

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