NELLIE BLY Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Nellie Bly                                                                       
Born: 5 May 1864 Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania                                         
Died: 27 January 1922 New York City                                                     
Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 - January 27, 1922) was an American journalist, author,         
industrialist, and charity worker. She is most famous for an undercover exposé         
in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She is           
also well-known for her record-breaking trip around the world.                         
She was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, later spelled Cochrane, and was nicknamed "Pink"   
for wearing that color as a child. She was born on May 5, 1864 in Cochran's             
Mills, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, forty miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Her         
father, a wealthy former associate justice, died when she was six. Her mother           
remarried three years later, but sued for divorce when Pink was fourteen years         
old; Pink testified in court against her drunken, violent stepfather. As a             
teenager she changed her surname to Cochrane, apparently adding the "e" for a           
sophistication. She attended boarding school for one term, but dropped out             
due to a lack of funds.                                                                 
In 1880, Pink and her family moved to Pittsburgh. A sexist column in the               
Pittsburgh Dispatch prompted her to write a fiery rebuttal to the editor;               
impressed with her earnestness and spirit, he asked her to join the paper.             
Female newspaper writers at that time customarily used pen names, and for Pink         
the editor chose "Nellie Bly", the title character in a popular song by Stephen         
Bly focused her early work for the Dispatch on the plight of working women,             
writing a series of investigative articles on female factory workers. But               
editorial pressure pushed her to the women's pages to cover fashion, society,           
and gardening, the usual role for female journalists of the day. Impatient with         
these duties, she took the initiative and traveled to Mexico to serve as a             
foreign correspondent.                                                                 
Then twenty-one, she spent nearly half a year reporting the lives and customs of       
the Mexican people; her dispatches were later published in book form as Six             
Months in Mexico. In one report, she protested the incarceration of a local             
journalist imprisoned for criticizing the Mexican government, then a                   
dictatorship under Porfirio Diaz. When Mexican authorities learned of Bly's             
report, they threatened her with arrest, prompting her to leave the country.           
Safely home, she denounced Diaz as a tyrannical czar suppressing the Mexican           
people and controlling the press.