Today is Nellie Bly's 151st birthday. She was born on May 5th, 1864, in Burrell Township, Pennsylvania, to Michael Cochran and Mary Jane Cochran. Her parents named her Elizabeth Jane.
Nellie Bly's first job working for a newspaper came when she wrote an outraged reply to a column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch, written by the editor Erasmus Wilson (known as 'The Quiet Observer'.) Apparently, Wilson was so amused by her letter that he offered her a job on the newspaper. From Pittsburgh, she eventually became a stunt reporter for the New York World. It was then that she gained wide acclaim for her daring exploits, displaying her resilience by pretending to be insane in order to report on the conditions of Blackwell Island women's lunatic asylum, posing as an unwed mother to expose the baby-buying trade, and then in 1889, she beat Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg by travelling around the world in less than eighty days.
"Nellie Bly is flying high on the China sea;
With her goes the hope of one who wants to see Paree;
She'll get here in 74, sure as she's alive,
Hours 12, minutes 10, and seconds 25."
(A jingle someone wrote while Nellie Bly was on her journey-- she actually arrived back in New York in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds.)
I've always been fascinated with Nellie Bly and the wild stories that surround her iconic name. I admire her in many ways-- for her gumption, her determination, and her will to make a name for herself as one of the first woman reporters in the 19th century. After reading a book on her life a few years ago, I gained a new insight into her as a person. She lived kind of a crazy life-- from surviving two horrible stepfathers, leaving boarding school when she was a teenager, securing herself a job with the most famous newspaper in the country and travelling around the world to marrying a millionaire, becoming an industrialist, inventor, and charity worker. She was definitely a one-of-a-kind lady, and has made her mark on history.
“Her grit has been more than masculine. … She is coming home to dear old America with the scalps of the carpers and critics strung on her slender girdle, and about her head a monster wreath of laurel and forget-me-nots, as a tribute to American pluck, American womanhood and American perseverance.”
~ The New York World
"In this age of wonders, one can entertain angels unawares; they may be poor today, tomorrow they may strike oil or work out a patent. Then they will remember who treated them well."
"If I fail, I will never return to New York. I would rather go in dead and successful than alive and behind time."
"Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything."