Nellie Bly

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (born Elizabeth Jane Cochran; May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922), better known by her pen name Nellie Bly, was an American journalist, industrialist, inventor, and charity worker who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, in emulation of Jules Verne‘s fictional character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she worked undercover to report on a mental institution from within.[1] She was a pioneer in her field and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.[2]

Asylum Exposé

Nellie Bly took an undercover assignment for the New York World in which she agreed to feign insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, now named Roosevelt Island.[21]

Undercover in an Insane Asylum

Undercover in an Insane Asylum: How a 23-Year-Old Changed Journalism

“In my time, women usually had their life stories written for them. But I didn’t like the story I was given, so I wrote a new one.” That’s Nellie Bly, the pen name of Elizabeth Cochrane. The story she wrote-in a newspaper in 1887, and, figuratively, of her life-would change the course of journalism in America.

Around the World

In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) into fact for the first time. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days’ notice,[27] she boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line,[28] and began her 40,070 kilometer journey.

To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of a trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip.[29][30] 

Nellie Bly in Traveling Cloak, Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons

During her travels around the world, Bly went through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez CanalColombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.

“Nellie Bly.” Wikipedia, 1 Dec. 2022,

Nellie Bly’s Story on Drunk History

How Nellie Bly Transformed Journalism Forever (feat. Laura Dern) – Drunk History

In 19th-century New York City, reporter Nellie Bly got herself committed to an insane asylum in order to expose the abusive practices of its staff. About Drunk History: Based on the popular web series, Drunk History is the liquored-up narration of our nation’s history.


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