Family Album THE STACKS

Newspaper Story

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday cake
for the 1880’s most famous newsreporter.
** Linger to consider
the impact newspapers made throughout the years.
** Savor a last ½ cup sampling quotes
from journalists about journalists.
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First Sip:

The American people
want something…that will

arrest their attention, enlist their sympathy,
arouse their indignation,
stimulate their imagination, convince their reason,
awaken their conscience.

– Joseph Pulitzer, editor
New York World

Slice of Cake:

How She Skimmed Like a Swallow Through
England, France, and Italy to Brindisi
Strong Men Might Well Shrink from the Fatigues and
Anxieties Cheerfully Faced by
This Young American Girl—
Through London Without Seeing It—Food and Sleep

Hastily Caught on Flying Trains—Everybody Interested and
Willing to Lend a Hand and
Speed Her on Her Way.

– Tracey Greaves
Special London Correspondent of The World
Headline: Nov 28, 1889
(on Day 14 of Nellie Bly’s journey around the world)

Nellie Bly
in 1890

It was her first editor, George Madden of the Pittsburgh Dispatch,
who chose her pen name. It’s from a Stephen Foster song.
The editor misspelled the name. (Nellie, instead of Nelly.)

But the name stuck.

And so Elizabeth Jane Cochran of Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania
became Nellie Bly, reporter.

And then she became one of the
most famous journalists in the United States.

— She got her first job after she read a news article titled ‘What Girls Are Good For’ that called working women a “monstrosity” and declared women’s only work should be cooking and baby care.  She sat down and wrote an anonymous, impassioned letter of counter argument to the editor, who was so impressed he hired her.

Her initial joy of being a paid journalist soon soured. She wanted to write about the plight of working women.  And though her first published article advocated the reform of the divorce laws (which she argued were punitive for women), her editor wanted her to write about gardens, art, and fashion. 

Frustrated, she quit and (eventually) headed for New York, where she (eventually) met the managing editor of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper. She impressed him by taking on an undercover job inside an asylum.  (She was 23 years old at the time.) Her exposé of a subject previously thought ‘unmentionable’ led to reforms in how mental patients were treated.

— What really made her famous was her idea to duplicate a whirlwind round-the-world trip found in a popular novel.  “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne was fiction, but Nellie Bly wanted to see if she could make it true.

Here’s how she tells it in Chapter 1 of her book,
Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

I approached my editor
rather timidly on the subject. I was afraid that he would
think the idea too wild…
‘It is impossible for you to do it,’ was the terrible verdict.

‘In the first place you are a woman and would need a protector,
and even if it were possible for you to travel alone
you would need to carry so much baggage
that it would detain you in making rapid changes…
there is no use talking about it; no one but a man can do this.’
‘Very well,’ I said angrily,

‘Start the man, and I’ll start the same day
for some other newspaper and beat him.’
‘I believe you would,’ he said slowly…

Before we parted I was made happy by the promise
that if any one was commissioned to make the trip,
I should be that one.
…One cold, wet evening, a year after this discussion, I received a little note asking me to come to the office at once…
“Can you start around the world day after tomorrow?”
“I can start this minute,” I answered.

The next morning I went to…order a dress
I always have a comfortable feeling
that nothing is impossible
if one applies a certain amount of
energy in the right direction.

— from Around the World in Seventy-Two Days
by Nellie Bly

In fact, Nellie Bly traveled very light.

Nellie Bly’s travel bag
* * * * * * * * * * * *
She had one bag (16”x7” high) and in it she packed:
a dressing gown, a pair of slippers,
a few changes of underwear, some handkerchiefs,
toiletries including a jar of cold cream,
a tennis blazer, two caps, three veils,
a flask, a cup, needles and thread,
and her writing implements.
She was given ₤200 in English gold and Bank of England notes.
She also took some American gold and paper money as a
‘test to see if American money was known outside of America’.

Every day she wore one of only two dresses. One dress for winter, which she’d ordered to “stand constant wear for three months…a plain blue broadcloth and a quiet plaid camel’s-hair…the most durable and suitable combiation for a traveling gown.” Then “going to another dressmaker’s, I ordered a lighter dress to carry with me to be worn in the land where I would find summer.”

For extra warmth she had a Sherlock Holmes-deerstalker-looking hat (called a ghillie cap) and her checkered Scotch ulster coat. One reporter described her as wearing:
“a long traveling coat, which reached to her feet, and a jaunty little traveling cap, which was saucily set to one side of her head.”

Someone suggested she take a revolver. She declined, saying she had a strong belief in
“the world’s greeting me as I greeted it.”

Nellie Bly’s itinerary:
* * * * * * * * * * * *
leave from New York on Nov 14, 1889
to London aboard the Augusta Victoria
train from Calais, France
to Brindisi, Italy
boat to Port Said, Egypt then
Ismailia, Egypt and through the Suez Canal
Aden, Yemen
Colombo, Sri Lanka (her biggest delay—5 days in Colombo)
Penang, Malaysia
Singapore (arrive ~Dec 21)
Hong Kong (she was here on Christmas)
Yokohama, Japan (spent 120 hours here and loved it “the land of love-beauty-poetry-cleanliness”)
boat to San Francisco (arrived Jan 21)
special train to New York (arrived Jan 25, 1890)
She sent a cable saying the trip took 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes.

I thought it was interesting how she made a point of talking of things that have made women afraid to travel, especially to travel alone.

She makes jokes about pirates and bandits.

on train through Italy
It was so very cold… The berths were provided with only one blanket each. I piled all my clothing on the berth and spent half the night lying awake thinking how fortunate the passengers were the week previous on this train. Just in the very same place … Italian bandits had attacked …If the passengers then felt the scarcity of blankets they at least had some excitement to make their blood circulate.

on the boat from Penang, Malaysia to Singapore
It was sultry and foggy… The second day out from Penang we passed beautiful green islands. There were many stories told about the straits being once infested with pirates, and I regretted to hear that they had ceased to exist, I so longed for some new experience.

She talked about traveling without a chaperone.

on the train in France
The English railway carriage make me understand why English girls need chaperones. It would make any American woman shudder with all her boasted self-reliance, to think of sending her daughter alone on a trip, even of a few hours’ duration, where there was every possibility that during those hours she would be locked in a comprtment with a stranger.
Small wonder the American girl is fearless. She has not been used to so called private compartments in English railway carriages, but to large crowds …When mothers teach their daughtes that there is safety in numbers…then chaperones will be a thing of the past, and women will be nobler and better.

And she makes sure to relate this story about a gentleman and his baggage.

on the boat from Brindisi, Italy to Port Said, Egypt
There was another young man on board who was quite a character…I noticed that he dressed vey exquisitely and changed his apparel at least three times a day, so my curiosity made me bold enough to ask how many trunks he carried with him.
‘Nineteen,’ was the amazing reply.

Over the years, Nellie Bly reinvented herself several times. She had some successes and some failures. She married and worked to co-run a business. She interviewed Eugene Debs and Susan B Anthony. She covered the beginning of World War I in Europe. She took out patents on her inventions. She started an advice column and worked to find homes for orphaned children.

When Nellie Bly died of pneumonia at age 55, a friend in the newspaper business said she was “the best reporter in America.”
He also wrote:

“She takes from this earth…an honorable name,
the respect and affection of her fellow workers,
and the memory of
good fights well fought.”
– Arthur Brisbane, editor
New York Evening Journal
Jan 28, 1922

Happy 155th Birthday
** Nellie Bly **

– born Elizabeth Jane Cochran
on May 5, 1864 in Cochran Mills, Pennsylvania

Linger Awhile:

I went out on deck, and the very first glimpse
of the… smooth, velvety looking water,
the bluest I had ever seen,
…and the balmy air, soft as a rose leaf, and just as sweet,
air such as one dreams about but seldom finds;
standing there alone
among strange people on strange waters, I thought

how sweet life is!

– Nellie Bly
desciption on the boat from Brindisi, Italy to Port Said, Egypt
from her book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

Been thinking this week about how grateful I am for newspapers. The one on my driveway every morning. And all the times when a local paper changed my life.

The Tennessean – The Farm, Summertown, October 1996
New in town, with two small children, and knowing almost no one, I often checked the newspaper’s ‘things to do’ page. One October day I saw a notice for a Harvest Festival at The Farm. We packed lunches, packed up the kids, and drove the 78 miles to Summertown, Tennessee. It was a very interesting place, a lovely afternoon—and we got to talking with another family. They also had two small children, almost exactly our kids’ ages. They also lived in Nashville. And when I mentioned that I’d been looking for a good pre-school, they had a recommendation. And all that led to… not only our daughter starting at a wonderful Waldorf preschool, but our families became very good friends, with their oldest and our oldest becoming the very best of friends. I’ll always be grateful I found that notice, and ventured out that day.

Arizona Daily Star – Old Pueblo Playwrights, Tucson, January 2005
Flash ahead nine years, and I’m looking through another Events Calendar, this time for something to do in the evening, without kids. I see there’s a Short Play Contest at a local theater. I get myself dressed up and go out. Not only was it very good theater, but that night I found out about Old Pueblo Playwrights. Which I promptly joined. This group taught me a whole lot of exactly what I’d been wanting to learn, just when I was ready to learn it. I’ll always be grateful I found that notice, and ventured out that evening.

Christchurch Press – Poets’ Corner, Christchurch New Zealand, March 2002
Every week, my favorite page was the book reviews on Saturday. And every Saturday on the book review page there was a poem written by a local poet. I decided, what the heck, I’d submit a few of my own. I’ll always be grateful for The Press for publishing poetry, for paying for poetry, for editor Bernadette Hall who chose my poetry, and just like that, turned me into a professional writer.

“Half Cup More”

I’ll let some of Nellie Bly’s
professional heirs apparent speak for themselves…

The people must know before they can act,
and there is no educator to compare with the press.

– Ida B. Wells
American investigative journalist and reformer,
noted for investigating lynching in the United States

War happens to people, one by one.
That is really all I have to say
and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.
Unless they are immediate victims, the majority of mankind behaves
as if…war elsewhere was none of their business.
It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves
due to atrophy of the imagination.

– Martha Gellhorn
American war correspondent for virtually
every major world conflict from 1937-1989

I get to wake up every morning and say,
‘Who am I mad at today?’

– Helen Thomas
(1920 – 2013)
reporter in the White House press corps through 9 presidents

Do you think some words on the internet can hurt me?
I once had a crazy bitch try and beat me with a shovel at a
bus stop because I took her spot on the bench.
Now that’s a troll!
Real trolls ain’t tapping on keyboards, they
swinging shovels!
…At a certain point

you stop being embarrassed
and start being you.

– Leslie Jones
(born Sept 7, 1967)
comedian and actress who
covered the 2016 Olympic Games
in Rio de Janeiro for NBC

Take-Away Box

me, every morning

Here’s how it goes:
I’m up at the stroke of 10 or 10:30. I have breakfast and
read the papers,
and then it’s lunchtime…

– E. L. Doctorow,
describing his writing routine ++

Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

There are several excellent resources I read about Nellie Bly,
which I’ll list below.
But the best way to learn about her is in her own words.
Around the World in Seventy-Two Days
and Other Writings

by Nellie Bly (1890)

a good article about her ‘competition’ from
another paper:

I learned about her light packing from this article:

This is a fun podcast about Nellie Bly:

photo credit:

++ The E.L. Doctorow quote actually continues:
Here’s how it goes:
I’m up at the stroke of 10 or 10:30. I have breakfast and
read the papers,
and then it’s lunchtime.

Then maybe a little nap after lunch and out to
the gym,
and before I know it,
it’s time to have a drink.
– E. L. Doctorow


Please note:
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

2 thoughts on “Newspaper Story”

  1. Reading about Nellie Bly’s round the world trip made me think of Thoreau’s poem which goes something like this:

    “I didn’t want to take a cabin passage but to stand on deck before the mast where I could see the moonlight shining upon the water.”

    I just came across these lines in one of Manny’s journals. It says so much about how we wanted to live our lives.

    1. Thank you, Lois! I didn’t know that quote. I just looked it up for us:

      “How deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”
      – from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

      I believe you and Manny did a beautiful job of enjoying the moonlight amid the mountains.
      Love –

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