Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday in History: Sassy Circumnavigator

Maybe I should retitle this series, "Sassy Ladies in History." But I suppose that someone quiet and unassuming wouldn't make the history books.
Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was the daughter of a Pittsburgh miller; she eventually became a famous newspaper columnist, business owner, and inventor. Her rise to fame began when she wrote a very sassy letter to the editor under a false name. The editor was so impressed that he offered the letter's author a job, only to change his mind when he found it had been penned by a woman.
But "Nellie Bly," as Miss Cochrane came to be known, talked him into giving her the job anyway. She disliked many of her assignments, and was always trying to come up with a more interesting project.
After living in Mexico for six months, she began to write about the terrible conditions the people were enduring under their dictator, Porfirio Díaz. She had to flee back to America to preserve her life, but that didn't stop her from writing a longer article: Six Months in Mexico.
She completely changed the public's view of women's mental institutions with her undercover exposé of the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island: Ten Days in a Madhouse. Because of her work, radical changes were made and money was raised for the department of corrections and for more rigorous testing so that only those who were truly mentally ill would be treated in the mental facilities.
On this day in history in 1889, the famous newspaperwoman Nellie Bly posed for a picture and then set off on a trip to circumnavigate the globe. She planned to make Jules Verne's fictional trip a reality. She was going to go around the world in eighty days.
She made it in seventy two days.

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