08 March, 2015

Around the world in seventy-two days and other writings by Nellie Bly [Ella, Central Library]

Today is International Women’s day, and what better way to celebrate than with a book by one of the wonderful women writers held in our collections. If you need some inspiration, look no further than one of my latest heroines, the delightful Nellie Bly. 

I came across Nellie’s book by chance, and became instantly fascinated by this inspiring woman. In the 1880s Nellie was a young writer, an investigative journalist, and later a successful business woman, fierce feminist, and idol to girls and women all over the world. In a time when many women were without a voice, Nellie Bly was speaking out – and loudly. 

This collection gathers together Bly’s writing, from her first published work – a fiery rebuttal to a sexist opinion piece written under the pen name “Lonely Orphan Girl” - to her later pieces of investigative journalism that brought her worldwide fame and sent her undercover on fascinating and often dangerous assignments.

Styled as a ‘girl stunt reporter’ by ‘The New York World’ newspaper, but not satisfied writing the sort of puff pieces and “women’s interest stories” that were expected from a female reporter, Nellie Bly captured the world’s attention with a series of daring forays into investigative journalism. Her first undercover job involved spending ten days in an asylum on New York’s notorious Blackwell island, and it makes for a harrowing read. After this experience Nellie continued to defy expectations, travelling to far flung destinations to write travelogues. These soon got her into more hot water as she once again ignored the advice of her editors and wrote pieces that were increasingly critical and political. 

1889 the fearless Nellie Bly set off to complete a ‘round the world trip, in less than eighty days. In typical Bly style she pulled it off in just seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds, setting a world record in the process. She wrote a book about it and captured the imagination of millions. Bly was not only interested in sensational stories however. Her sympathetic stories of the lives of ordinary working women and her intimate interview with another passionate feminist, suffragist Susan B. Anthony are equally as interesting as her tales of adventures around the world. 

Authors: Nellie Bly, Jean Marie Lutes
Publishing info: New York, New York : Penguin Books, [2014]
ISBN: 9780143107408

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