The Millstone Times December 2021
cover fashion, society, and gardening, the usual role for women journalists. She became very dissatisfied. Still only 21, she was determined to do some- thing no girl has done before. She then traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent, spending nearly half a year reporting on the lives and cus- toms of the Mexican people. Her dispatches later were published in book form as Six Months in Mexico. In one report, she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticizing the Mexican government, then a dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz. When Mexican authorities learned of Bly's report, they threatened her with arrest, prompting her to flee the country. Safely home, she accused Díaz of being a tyrannical czar suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press. When she returned, she was again assigned to the society page and promptly quit in protest. Elizabeth hoped the massive newspaper industry of New York City would be more open-minded to a female journalist and left Pittsburgh. Although several newspapers turned down her application because she was a woman, she was eventually given the opportunity to write for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. The world was not ready for her investigative style of writing. In journalism for the World, Elizabeth told her boss that she would go undercover at a mental asylum to see what the conditions were really like. He agreed to let her stay there for ten days and then after that he would get her out. She pretended to be mentally ill and arranged to be a patient at New York’s insane asylum for the poor, Blackwell’s Island. For ten days Elizabeth experienced the physical and mental abuses suffered by patients. It was not an easy task for her to be admitted to the Asylum. She first decided to check herself into a boarding house called Temporary Homes for Fe- males. She stayed up all night to give herself the wide-eyed look of a disturbed woman and began making accusations that the other boarders were insane. Bly told the assistant matron, “There are so many crazy people about, and one can never tell what they will do.” She refused to go to bed and eventually scared so many of the other boarders that the police were called to take her to the nearby courthouse. Once examined by a police officer, a judge, and a doctor, Bly was taken to Blackwell's Island. Committed to the asylum, Bly experienced the deplorable conditions firsthand. After ten days, the asylum released Bly at her boss’s request. Her report, later published in a book called Ten Days in a Mad House. Her investigation into the conditions at the asylum caused quite a stir, even though the peo- ple that worked there denied her accusations, and being tipped off, spruced the place up for a supposedly surprise visit by officials. None the less, it still prompted officials to implement reforms at the asylum. This act of courage brought Nellie lasting fame. Her report about Blackwell’s Island earned her a permanent position as an investigative journalist for the World. In her book, she stated that New York City invested more money into care for the mentally ill only after her articles were published. She was satisfied to know that her work led to change. Activist journalists like Elizabeth, commonly known as muckrakers, were an important part of reform movements. Her investigations brought attention to inequalities and often motivated others to take action. She uncovered the abuse of women by male police officers, identified an employment agency that was stealing from immigrants, and exposed corrupt politicians. She also interviewed influential and controversial figures, including Emma Goldman in 1893. The most famous of her stunts was her successful seventy-two-day trip around the world in 1889, for which she had two goals. First, she wanted to beat the record set in the popular fictional world tour from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Second, she wanted to prove that women were capable of traveling just as well as men. Elizabeth traveled light, taking only the dress she wore, a cape, and a small traveler’s bag. Her world tour made her a celebrity. After she returned, she toured the country as a lecturer. Her image was used on everything from playing cards to board games. She recounted her adventures in her final book, Around the World in 72 Days. After the fanfare of her trip around the world, Bly quit reporting and took a lucrative job writing serial novels for publisher Norman Munro's weekly New York Family Story Paper. The first chapters of Eva, The Adventuress, based on the real-life trial of Eva Hamilton, appeared in print before Bly returned to New York. Between 1889 and 1895 she wrote eleven novels. As few copies of the paper survived, these novels were thought lost until 2021, when au- thor David Blixt announced their discovery, found in Munro's British weekly The London Story Paper. In 1893, though still writing novels, she returned to reporting for the World. In 1895, Elizabeth retired from writing and married Robert Livingston Seaman. Robert was a millionaire who owned the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company and the American Steel Barrel Company. When Robert died in 1904, Elizabeth briefly took over as president of his companies. In 1911, she returned to journalism as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal. She covered a number of national news stories, including the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth often referred to suffrage in her articles, arguing that women were as capable as men in all things. During World War I, she traveled to Europe as the first woman to report from the trenches on the front line. Although Elizabeth never regained the level of stardom she experienced after her trip around the world, she continued to use her writing to shed light on issues of the day. She died of pneumonia on January 27, 1922 at the age of 57. Bly was an inventor in her own right, receiving U.S. Patent 697,553 for a novel milk can and U.S. Patent 703,711 for a stacking garbage can, both under her married name of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman. For a time, she was one of the leading women industrialists in the United States, but her negligence and embezzlement by a factory manager resulted in the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. going bankrupt. In 1998, Bly was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Bly was one of four journalists honored with a US postage stamp in a "Women in Journalism" set in 2002. In 2019, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation put out an open call for artists to create a Nellie Bly Memorial art installation on Roosevelt Is- land. The winning proposal, The Girl Puzzle by Amanda Matthews, was announced on October 16, 2019. The New York Press Club holds an annual Nellie Bly Cub Reporter journalism award to acknowledge the best journalistic effort by an individual with three years or less professional experience. Bly was the subject of the 1946 Broadway musical Nellie Bly by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. The show ran for 16 performances. Bly has been portrayed in the films The Adventures of Nellie Bly (1981), 10 Days in a Madhouse (2015), and Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story (2019). In 2019, the Center for Investigative Reporting released Nellie Bly Makes the News, a short animated biographical film. A fictionalized version of Bly as a mouse named Nellie Brie appears as a central character in the animated children's film An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster. Interesting People Throughout History, Nellie Bly- Investigative Journalist, Inventor. Story Continued from page 10...
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