- NAME: Nellie Bly
- OCCUPATION: Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: May 05, 1864
- DEATH DATE: January 27, 1922
- EDUCATION: Indiana Normal School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Originally: Elizabeth Jane Cochran
- Full Name: Elizabeth Jane Cochrane Seaman
- AKA: Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman
- AKA: Elizabeth Cochran
- AKA: Nellie Bly
- Nickname: "Pink"
- Nickname: "Pinky"
- AKA: Elizabeth Jane Cochrane
- AKA: Elizabeth Cochrane
Best Known For
Nellie Bly was an American journalist known for her investigative and undercover reporting. She earned acclaim in 1887 for her exposé on the conditions of patients at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and achieved further fame after the New York World sent her on a trip around the world in 1889.
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Born Elizabeth Cochran on May 5, 1864, in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania, journalist Nellie Bly began writing for The Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885. Two years later, Bly moved to New York City and began working for the New York World. In conjunction with one of her first assignments for the World, she spent 10 days at Bellevue Hospital, posing as a mental patient for an exposé. In 1890, the paper sent her on a trip around the world in a record-setting 72 days. Bly died on January 27,
1922, at age 57, in New York City.
Famed investigative journalist Nellie Bly was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran (she later added an "e" to the end of her name) on May 5, 1864, in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania, a town founded by her father, Michael Cochran, who amply provided for his family by working as a judge and landowner. Bly's mother was Michael Cochran's second wife, Mary Jane Cochran; their marriage produced five children, the third of which was Bly. (Prior to their union, Michael and Mary Jane were both widowed. Michael had 10 children by his first wife; Mary Jane had no children from her first marriage.)
Bly suffered a tragic loss in 1870, at the age of 6, when her father died suddenly. Amidst their grief, Michael Cochran's death presented a grave financial detriment to his family, as he left them without a will, and, thusly, no legal claim to his estate.
In effort to support her now-single mother, Bly enrolled at the Indiana Normal School, a small college in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where she studied to become a teacher. However, not long after beginning her courses there, financial constraints forced Bly to table her hopes for a higher education. Leaving the school, she moved with her mother to the nearby city of Pittsburgh, where, together, they ran a boarding house.
Bly's future finally began to look brighter in the early 1880s, when, at the age of 18, she submitted a racy response to an editorial piece that had been published in The Pittsburgh Dispatch; in the piece, writer Erasmus Wilson (known to Dispatch readers as the "Quiet Observer," or Q.O.) claimed that women were best served in the home, conducting domestic duties such as raising children, cooking and cleaning, and called the working woman "a monstrosity." Aghast by Wilson's sexist statements, it didn't take long for Bly to craft her fiery rebuttal. Bly's letter grabbed the attention of the paper's managing editor, George Madden, who, in turn, offered her a position.
Working as a reporter (beginning in 1885) for The Pittsburgh Dispatch at a rate of $5 per week—and taking on the pen name by which she's best known, after the Stephen Foster song "Nelly Bly" [sic]—Bly expanded upon the negative consequences of sexist ideologies and emphasized the importance of women's rights issues. She also became renowned for her investigative and undercover reporting, including posing as a sweatshop worker to expose poor working conditions faced by women. However, Bly became increasingly limited in her work at The Pittsburgh Dispatch after her editors moved her to the paper's women's page, and aspired to find a more meaningful career.
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