Nov. 14, 1889: Around the World in Only 72 Days

Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, was the prototype of the independent woman: “one tough broad” in newspaper parlance. She came to the business after the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch read her angry rebuttal to what would today be called a sexist editorial by one of the paper’s columnists. The editor was duly impressed and, after tracking her down, offered her a reporting job. It was there she acquired her pen name, Nellie Bly, which she carried with her for the rest of her life.

After traveling to Mexico and attacking the Mexican government for corruption in a series of stories, she returned to the United States and moved to New York, where she eventually found a job with Joseph Pulitzer‘s World. She covered women’s rights issues but also specialized in investigative stories. In fact, she’s often credited with inventing the practice of investigative reporting.

Inspired by Jules Verne’s wildly popular 1873 novel, Around the World in 80 Days, Bly proposed to her editors at the New York World that she undertake the same trip to try and break the fictional record. Traveling by steamer, train, rickshaw and any number of other conveyances, she did — by eight days.

What an amazing feat for a woman of her time when most women rarely traveled in public without an escort or chaperone! I picked this item to note in honor of my mom. She was born 80 years ago today. Unfortunately, she died 3 years ago. Love you, Mom!

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