Nellie Bly, originally born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, was a legendary journalist that revolutionized the field in more ways than one. Known for pushing the boundaries, protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves, and speaking her mind during a time when women had no voice, Elizabeth Jane Cochran began going by her more gender-ambiguous pen-name Nellie Bly when she started her first reporting job.
After many months of searching for a writing gig, Elizabeth had no luck. One day, she wrote an angry letter to the editor of The Pittsburgh Dispatch in response to an article titled “What Girls Are Good For”. The piece criticized women who desired an education, a career, or any life that went beyond cooking and cleaning. The editor was so impressed by her writing ability that he offered her a full-time position at the newspaper. While other women were giving gardening tips to their readers, Elizabeth (now known as Bly) wrote about divorce, poverty, and the disadvantages of being a woman. To many, she is considered the original feminist who brought gender equality issues to the forefront of media.
Bly eventually left The Pittsburgh Dispatch to work for Joseph Pulitzer at the New York World newspaper. It was here that she became the world’s first investigative journalist by feigning insanity in order to be committed to a notorious women’s asylum and reporting on the terrible conditions therein in her article titled “Ten Days In A Mad-house”. She saved countless lives and brought positive changes to the mental hospital. The following year, Bly broke the record for fastest time traveling around the world, a feat nobody believed she could accomplish because of her gender. She proved everybody wrong and detailed her journey in Around The World in 72 Days.
Bly is also known for her book Six Months in Mexico, for being the first woman to report on the frontlines of World War I, and for covering the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913.
Every year, the New York Press Club honors Bly’s history-changing achievements by presenting the Nellie Bly Cub Reporter Award to one outstanding journalist with less than years of experience. The Nellie Bly Cub Reporter Award has been given to many important journalists over the years who follow in Bly’s tradition of relentlessly telling the truth.
This year, Jack Dickey was honored with the award for his TIME Magazine cover article “Taylor Strikes a Chord”, which details the rise of artist Taylor Swift, and the impact she has made on not only the music industry, but the world.
In 2014, the award was given to Jackie Mader for her article in The Hechinger Report titled “In Mississippi, Generations Still Fighting Illiteracy” which discusses the shocking statistics of adult illiteracy in the state, and how to fix this alarming issue. The story is one part of a larger series that examines “why the children of Mississippi start behind—and stay behind.”
In 2011, Graham Rayman won for his five-part series “NYPD Tapes” in The Village Voice which followed policeman Adrian Schoolcraft as he secretly recorded his peers for two years. The piece is subtitled “A Shocking Story of Cops, Cover-ups and Courage”.
Nellie Bly’s contributions have changed the world and will inspire journalists for ages to come. On November 20th, audiences will be able to see a portion of Bly’s incredible life in the feature film 10 Days In A Madhouse, which details her time inside the mental hospital. The film is directed by Timothy Hines and stars newcomer Caroline Barry as the sensational Nellie Bly, Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Mortal Kombat), Kelly Le Brock (Weird Science). Exhibition publicist Shannon Gorman, who has 20 years of experience at Fox Searchlight, calls the film “profound” and “important”.
Follow 10 Days In A Madhouse – The Nellie Bly Story on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and at http://www.10DaysInAMadhouse.com
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