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Strong Female Friday – Nellie Bly

Posted by SWSG Blogging Corps Jun 6, 2013 , , , , , ,

This week we are featuring Pittsburgh-native, Nellie Bly. She was a bold journalist that feigned a mental illness in order to do an expose of mental institutions in the late1800s.

Nellie Bly was actually the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She was born in 1864 in Cochran mills, Pennsylvania –which is today’s Pittsburgh. Her life reads like an adventure novel!

Part of what made Nellie fabulous was her ability to be a strong female writer that took risks. In response to a misogynistic article written in the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she wrote a piece that inspired the editor to hire her even though she was a woman. She did have to fight for her position, and used her gift with words to convince the editor to give her the job! She started to use her pen name when she wrote for the Pittsburgh Dispatch.

Nellie’s audacity expanded beyond her writing. She went on a record setting 72-day, un-chaperoned trip around the world, inspired by Jules Verne’s  Around the World in Eighty Days. After her expedition she met Jules Verne, and Joseph Pulitzer, who wrote about her trip in the New York World.

Her expose on mental institutions is considered her most important work, and her most fearless piece. In the time she spent in the Bellevue Hospital she discovered the abuse of the patients, which was released in the book 10 Days in a Mad-House. The book brought her lasting fame and led to the investigation of all asylums in order to reach proper treatment of patients and health conditions of these facilities. Her suggestions in the book were used as guidelines to create laws in order to protect patients and provide proper care.

Who would you consider to be the Nellie Bly’s of our time? 

Estefania Pugliese is a communications intern for the South Florida Office. She is a Mount Holyoke student, and Posse Scholar. She is currently studying Economics and International Relations. 

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