Have you ever heard the amazing story of Nellie Bly? Its like all your favourite, edge of your seat Netflix episode’s rolled into one.
Nellie was a journalist who pushed all boundaries to get the scoop. She was intent on telling the stories of the disadvantaged, and of women in particular.
Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, she grew up in Pennsylvania, where her Grandfather had settled having left Derry in the 1790’s. Nellie began writing at just 19 and worked for 11 years for the New York World under the guidance of Joseph Pulitzer (of Pulitzer Prize fame).
Nellie pretended to be crazy in order to be admitted into the Blackwell’s Island Women’s Lunatic Asylum, where she spent 10 days, so she could expose the awful mistreatment of the patients there. “They inject so much morphine and chloral that the patients are made crazy. I have seen the patients’ wild for water from the effect of the drugs, and the nurses would refuse it to them. I have heard women beg for a whole night for one drop and it was not given them. I myself cried for water until my mouth was so parched and dry that I could not speak.”
The article led to a major investigation, and turned Nellie into a bit of a celeb. For the next 10 years, she disguised herself to do many more undercover investigations, helping to reform jails, orphanages and factories.
In 1889, Nellie decided to attempt to break the record set in Phileas Fog’s Around The World in 80 Days for circumnavigating the globe. To make it even more exciting, Cosmopolitan sent her arch nemesis Elizabeth Bisland in the opposite direction and try to beat her.
Nellie made it, arriving in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. Poor Elizabeth had missed a steamship in Southampton, and arrived four days later.
Nellie married a millionaire called Robert Seaman in 1895, when she was 31 and he was 73. She took over the running of his company soon after and ran it after he died 9 years later. She herself passed away in 1922 aged 57. But the story of her badassery continues to be celebrated.
So, much like Nellie, what is it you want to do with your one wild and crazy life?