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Bly’s Biography

I will be focusing on pioneer American journalist Nellie Bly for the final studio unit of my Bachelor of Communication/Multimedia Systems. I will be producing an animation about her Around The World publicity stunt. This story has fascinated me since I first read about it over two years ago – and it is an added bonus that she shares my surname (though she’s sadly not in my family tree)! To save myself writing out Nellie biography, the following has been taken from Squidoo:

“Elizabeth Jane Cochran (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922) was best known under her pen name Nellie Bly. An early investigative journalist, she pioneered undercover reporting.

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. Bly wrote several investigative articles before she was banished to the women’s pages. She then left the Dispatch and went to New York City, where she applied for a job at Joseph Pulitzer’s sensationalist newspaper, the New York World. 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 to 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, Nellie suggested that the World should send her on a trip around the world, mimicking Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days. 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. At the time this was a world record for circling the earth, though it was bested a few months later by George Francis Train, who completed the journey in 62 days. 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 Francisco. She was also the first woman 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 1894, 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 Cochrane died of pneumonia.


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