The Venice Sketchbook - Rhys Bowen - A Short Summary and Review

Stop the Insanity, Journalism Nellie Bly Style

Dear Henry,

Continuing in my study of "People Who Helped The Insane" - I am so relieved that Fish has agreed to clear the history on my internet browser after I die -  I have come across the story of Ms. Nellie Bly.

I vaguely remember hearing about her when I was younger. After some research, I have decided that she would be considered one of the bravest women in journalism, even by today's standards.

Her first article, written under the pseudonym "Lonely Orphan Girl," challenged the current role of women. It argued for divorce law reform, which garnered her a full-time position at the Pittsburgh Dispatch. She immediately began reporting on women's working conditions in the area's factories.

She was then promptly reassigned to the women's section of the paper and told to report on fashion.

Unwilling to report on society and unable to write on local items of substance, Nellie Bly went to Mexico as a foreign correspondent. While reporting on the local customs of Mexico, she quickly ran into trouble when she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist, made disparaging remarks about the government and made unflattering accusations about President Porfirio Diaz. When threatened with arrest, she fled back to Pittsburgh and continued her criticisms of President Diaz and the lack of a free press in Mexico (something that is still a problem).

She was promptly reassigned to the women's section of the paper and told to report on fashion.

Leaving the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she bullied her way into Joseph Pulitzer's New York World office and proceeded to take on one of the scariest undercover reporting assignments ever. She agreed to investigate the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island. Nellie Bly spent ten days in a freezing, inhumane building and was subjected to horrific "therapies" and fed rotten food.

She blew the lid off the place when she got out with her tell-all, Ten Days in a Mad-House.

Her fame was sealed.

Next, she tackled world travel. Inspired by Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, she circumnavigated the globe alone in 72 days, meeting Mr. Verne during the voyage and briefly holding the world record for traveling around the world (George Francis Train would beat her time a few months later).

Next, Nellie Bly left journalism to get married, but she didn't become a housewife.

In 1895 she married Robert Seaman, the founder and current president of Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. When, in 1904, her husband died, she took the company's reigns. While she was a successful inventor  - she developed a patent for a milk can - she struggled at the head of a manufacturing company. When an embezzling employee took advantage of the company, she was forced to dismantle it and close the doors.

She returned to journalism, covering the Eastern Front in WWI (and was briefly arrested as a spy) and women's suffrage issues, dying in 1922 from pneumonia.

Nellie Bly has become one of my heroes.

xoxo a.d.



Rite of Fancy Book Recommendations and Reviews 
are written by a.d. elliott - Take the Back Roads #TaketheBackRoads 

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