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Nellie Bly

From Academic Kids

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Nellie Bly

Elizabeth Jane Cochran (May 5, 1864 - January 27, 1922), born in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania, was better known under her pen name Nellie Bly. An investigative journalist, she pioneered undercover journalism. Apparently she changed her last name to Cochrane (with an added 'e') later.

A sexist column in the Pittsburgh Dispatch prompted her to write a venomous rebuttal to the editor. The quality of the letter caused the editor to ask Cochran, who was desperately looking for a job, to join the paper as a reporter. The editor also gave her a pen name, Nellie Bly, after the title character in a popular song by Stephen Foster.

Pulitzer hired her, and her first assignment was to write a story about the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. She let herself be committed and exposed the horrible conditions under which patients were treated at the asylum. This form of journalism, going undercover to get a story, would become her trademark.

In 1888, it was suggested that the World should send a reporter on a trip around the world, mimicking Jules Verne's book Around the World in Eighty Days. It was decided that Nellie Bly should be that reporter, and on November 14, 1889 she left New York on her 24,899-mile journey. "Seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds after her Hoboken departure" (January 25, 1890) Nellie arrived in New York. This was a world record for circling the earth, which would stand until 1929, when the Graf Zeppelin did it in "20 days, four hours and fourteen minutes".

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Nellie Bly, late 1880s

On her travels around the world, she visited not only England, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and others but also the home of Jules Verne, Brindisi, Colombo, and San Fransisco. She was also the first women to travel around the world unaccompanied at all times by a man, and became a role model for women everywhere.

Nellie Bly married millionaire Robert Seaman in 1895, and retired from journalism for a time. She took over management of his companies after he died in 1904. She returned to filing news stories later in life, covering a women's suffrage convention in 1913 and reporting on World War I from Europe's eastern front.

At the age of 57, Elizabeth "Pink" Cochrane died of pneumonia (her nickname was "pink" because she was christened in a bright pink dress!)

There is a small amusement park in Brooklyn, New York City named after her, taking as its theme Around the World in Eighty Days.


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