Women Transforming Media

Nellie Bly

by Jack Lee from San Diego , California in United States

124884Nellie Bly Portrait Bly: An Amazing Hero

“I have never written a word that did not come from my heart. I never shall” (Bly). Nellie Bly was a brave, courageous and ambitious women’s rights activist. She fought for what she believed in and helped many people along the way. Bly was one of America’s first female reporters who used her talents to expose overpowered individuals. Nellie Bly was born as Elizabeth Cochrane on May 5, 1864 in Cochran Mills, Pennsylvania where she discovered her passion for writing early in life ("Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman."Encyclopedia). Bly was a journalist and news reporter who specialized in interviewing socialites ("Elizabeth Cochrane”). During her adulthood, she went undercover to expose how poorly the workers were treating the patients in insane asylums (“Nellie Bly.” In addition to her world famous discoveries, she set a speed record for traveling around the globe mainly by steamship and train from 1889-1890 ("Nellie Bly.”). Bly later passed away in January 27, 1922 and was buried in the Ascension Cemetery in New York ("Elizabeth Cochrane."). Her heartfelt contributions to society caused people to refer her as a hero during and after her time period. A hero is an individual that is courageous and will fight against anything, no matter what the outcome may be. They are not only dreamers but also achievers who always strive for what is right. Nellie Bly was a brave and fearless female reporter that stood up to help many victims escape the hands of overpowered individuals and proved to others that women deserved the same rights as men.

124886Nellie Bly makes Headline was a hero because of her bravery, and she showed people that with the right attitude, anything is possible. In 1887, Nellie Bly entered the insane asylum in hopes of exposing their bad deeds: “In order to get a true sense of the subjects she wanted to write about—factory conditions, care for the mentally ill, prison life—she disguised herself and went undercover, one of the first journalists to do so” ("Nellie Bly.”). Nellie Bly was a confident and strong person who wanted to see things with her own two eyes. Disguising herself as an insane person would be an uncomfortable experience for many people. However, Bly didn’t want anyone else to take the opportunity away from her and wanted to discover the many secrets of these awful places on her own. She wrote about the unfair treatment of the prisoners and factory workers, and endured not only the mental beating of being in a horrid place but also the physical pain endured by patients. Her bravery was portrayed through her thoughts as she was experiencing scary situations: “I knew now what was to be done with me. I shivered. They began to undress me, and one by one they pulled off my clothes” (Bly 50). Bly had to deal with the confrontation and harassment of her own body as she was tortured on a daily basis. She devoted herself to her job, persevered through the pain, and delivered the harsh truth about the treatment of the patients. Bly’s work in the asylum exposed how viciously the patients were being handled in the psychiatric hospital. Her courage was shown through the commitment she had for her job as she went through all the abuses and pain a regular patient would have to go through, just to save the lives that weren’t even personally connected to hers. Bly also infiltrated other large names such as brands and businesses: “She undertook such stunts as having herself admitted to an insane asylum, working in a factory sweatshop, and getting herself arrested in order to get a glimpse of the experiences of some of the most downtrodden of urban America”("Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman."Encyclopedia). She experienced the low pay, poor working conditions, and abuse from the working class perspective. Bly showed how courageous she was, and portrayed how much she cared about the topic of human rights. She confidently reported and exposed the harsh working conditions to bring justice into the many factories. Her voice showed others that anyone can have power if they speak up. As she freed workers and victims of abuse, she was able to bring voice to the large scale topic of working conditions: “The piece shed light on a number of disturbing conditions at the facility, including neglect and physical abuse, and, along with spawning her book on the subject, ultimately spurred a large-scale investigation of the institution” (“Nellie Bly.” She was brave enough to continuously disguise herself and infiltrate these businesses. Her writing conveys how she felt during the processes and the fear she had at many times. She overcame her doubts and continued to provide better working conditions and treatment for the workers. Bly was not an individual who would speak before her actions, but she was a strong woman who sought to achieve her hopes and goals. She showed fearlessness by enduring and persevering through her stay at the asylum and is an inspiring person that even contributes to today’s society.

124887Nellie Bly Sets Speed Record Bly worked hard to prove to others that a woman with ambition can achieve any task she puts her mind to. Her bravery and her ambition developed after many experiences that taught her new life lessons. She chased her dreams, strived towards change in working conditions and sought better treatment of patients. Bly was motivated to change the mindset of many sexist ideologies that remained within the majority of individuals in her society: “Cheered at every train stop, Bly arrived back in Jersey City on January 25, 1890. Her trip around the world had taken 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes and she had covered 21,740 miles” ("Nellie Bly.”). Nellie Bly was an ambitious hero who worked hard to achieve her dreams. She wanted to prove to everyone that a women could travel around the world just as fast as a man could. She broke the fastest time around the world at just under 73 days and is a true inspirational figure because of her constant positive mindset and attitude. Bly wanted to then prove to her company that a woman was capable of completing any task as well as a man or even better. She broke boundaries from the very beginning: “Her career began in 1885 when she became the only woman on the previously all-male staff of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. ("Elizabeth Cochrane."). She was given an unfair role in her company and persuaded them to give her a bigger assignment. By doing so, Bly proved herself worthy and showed many others that, with the right mindset, anything is possible. She was an ambitious worker who always strived for excellence and nothing less. Nellie Bly was an individual who defied all known stereotypes about women at the time. Her ambition fueled her to work through her so-called “crazy plan” to help expose the vicious conditions of the asylum: “Bly was ready for the challenge. With Cockerill, she devised the idea of getting herself admitted to New York's insane asylum for the poor, Blackwell's Island, in order to discover the truth behind reports of abuses there” ("Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman." Encyclopedia). Bly was such an inspiring role model because of her ambitious attitude and intelligence. She always looked at situations from different perspectives in order to make the best decisions. Nellie Bly also wanted to represent women and show others that she was not weak or lesser because of her gender. “Taking on the pen name by which she's best known, after a Stephen Foster song, she sought to highlight the negative consequences of sexist ideologies and the importance of women's rights issues”(“Nellie Bly.” ). Bly took on a controversial task and tried to achieve equality through her writing. Her perseverance showed how hard-working she was by how she always delivered her thoughts no matter what possible outcomes there were. At times, Bly’s doubts clouded her mind and caused her to rethink her entire plan, however she kept telling herself to keep going: “I said I believed I could. I had some faith in my own ability as an actress and thought I could assume insanity long enough to accomplish any mission entrusted to me. Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell’s Island? I said I could and I would. And I did” (Bly 4).  Due to her powerful mindset, Bly believed in her ability to fake her sanity in order to accomplish her important mission. She was a true hero and has inspired us to think positively just like she did throughout her whole life. Bly was an individual that was not easily swayed and stood for her beliefs and feelings. She contributed to her time by giving strength to others through her writing and reporting. She was an ambitious fighter who chased her dreams and persevered through the tough criticism of others.

12488810 Days in a Mad-House Bly was an inspiration throughout her lifetime and continues to be a hero figure towards many today. At the time, many people believed that she was crazy to be venturing into an insane asylum to uncover the truths behind those closed doors. Her stunning bravery and ambition allowed her to change the minds of others, which is extremely admirable and astonishing. Her work towards the exposure of the insane asylums benefitted many patients and workers ("Nellie Bly.”). Even her own company thought that she was a wonderful addition to the team and helped contribute to success of the newspaper company. “In the obituary, her old newspaper, The World, wrote: "Nellie Bly was THE BEST REPORTER IN AMERICA and that is saying a good deal"(“Nellie Bly.” Scholastic). I completely agree with what The World is saying. She was brave enough to risk her life in order to get first hand information about the secret treatments in factories and insane asylums. She also fought for women's rights and broke a world speed record ("Nellie Bly.”)! She was a women's rights activist that helped bring individuals together. Bly’s positive attitude shifted her daily life and helped her become an inspiring person: “But Bly's ‘push-and-get-there’ style helped to change the way reporters did their jobs. Bly also was a shining example of why women deserve the same opportunities as men” (“Nellie Bly.” Scholastic). Bly proved to the world that women can do anything. She always maintained a growth mindset towards everything she did and persevered through many trials. She was a great role model for women and other reporters during her time and continues to be an awesome example of a caring, fearless, heroic figure. Her actions and writings have contributed to many people's thinking and has helped the world realize that all people should be treated equally. Nellie Bly inspires me to be more brave and she is one of my many role models because of how she always strived for the best and how she chased her dreams. She was an extremely persistent individual and was always dedicated to her craft. It shows me that I should always try my hardest and have a good attitude towards any task at hand. Bly’s actions and contributions to society have opened the eyes of many people and are still affecting the lives of new generations. Her bravery inspires individuals to preserve and her achieving personality exemplifies a true hero. She took many risks to help others and fought for change about the stereotypical mindsets about women. Her bravery and ambition is what shaped her into a hero.

Works Cited

"A Race Around the World." Science and Its Times, edited by Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer, vol.

5, Gale, 2001. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 4 May 2018.

Bly, Nellie. Ten Days in a Mad House. Publisher Not Identified, 2017.

"Elizabeth Cochrane." DISCovering Authors, Gale, 2003. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 4 May 2018.

"Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman." Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998. Student Resources

In Context, Accessed 4 May 2018.

“Nellie Bly.”, A&E Networks Television, 27 Feb. 2018,

“Nellie Bly.” Scholastic Publishes Literacy Resources and Children's Books for Kids of All Ages,


"Nellie Bly." UXL Biographies, UXL, 2011. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 4 May 2018.

Page created on 5/23/2018 4:41:03 AM

Last edited 5/26/2018 8:47:35 PM

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