Around the World With Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly

New York World reporter Nellie Bly. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

On Nov. 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, one of the world’s first female reporters and the New York World’s intrepid “stunt girl,” embarked on an ambitious mission to circle the globe in less time than Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in Eighty Days.” It was her latest attempt to dazzle readers and keep Joseph Pulitzer’s No. 1 daily on top of the newspaper world.

Riding ships, trains, horses and sampans, Bly completed the voyage in 72 days, cementing her legacy as one of the most famous journalists of her era. As she entered the final leg of her globe-trotting journey, The World wrote: “Her grit has been more than masculine. … She is coming home to dear old America with the scalps of the carpers and critics strung on her slender girdle, and about her head a monster wreath of laurel and forget-me-nots, as a tribute to American pluck, American womanhood and American perseverance.”

Born Elizabeth Cochran in 1864 (she added an “e” to the end of her surname when she was a teenager), Bly also was a pioneer of undercover investigative reporting. In 1887, she feigned insanity and successfully exposed squalid conditions in the notorious Women’s Lunatic Asylum on New York’s Blackwell’s Island.

Bly’s popularity spawned books, a board game and trading cards about her trip. Newseum visitors can see the satchel she carried during her around-the-world trek in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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