To mark the birthday of the one-and-only Nellie Bly, born May 5, 1864 in Burell Township, PA, NPR’s Morning Edition today welcomed Jean Marie Lutes, editor of a brand new compilation of Bly’s articles.
The pen-named Ms. Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, was most famous for a pair of extended assignments: ten days undercover as a crazy person in a New York area mental asylum and 72 days spanning the globe for a Phileas Fogg-worthy trip. Credit for that first daring assignment goes largely to a quick-thinking New York newspaper editor:
“One morning, Bly borrowed carfare from her landlady, took a cab down to the New York World building and she just sneaked in,” Lutes said. “She worked her way into an editor’s office, and she offered to go to Europe and return steerage class, to write about the experience of immigrants coming to the United States.”
“And he said, ‘That’s too far-flung; you can’t do that.’ But, he said, if you want to, you can have yourself checked into this insane asylum that’s more nearby, and write about that. And she said OK!”
Wow. Bly’s account of what she witnessed is also available via Amazon. That item and-or the new compilation by Lutes, an associate professor of English and director of academics for Gender and Women’s Studies at Villanova University, are both perfect was to remember a female journalist who truly blazed a trail. Bly passed away in 1922.
In 1981, Linda Purl starred as Bly in an NBC-TV movie. Her exploits would also seem ripe for some sort of feature-film treatment.