Nellie Bly Comes to Life at Library

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Heun Daily Herald Correspondent

She was called the "Daredevil Reporter" and specialized in what was known as "stunt" journalism -- and she did it in a time without widespread newspapers, magazines, Internet, Twitter, Facebook or an iPad to spread her tales.

Nellie Bly, an investigative reporter and feminist from the late 1880s to the early 1920s, reached worldwide fame for writing dramatic stories about pretending to be crazy in order to experience the cruelty of a woman's insane asylum, and also traveling around the world in less than 75 days to prove a woman could do such a thing.

Her story was told Wednesday at the Geneva library's "Book and Bag It" lunch hour presentation through re-enactor Lynn Rymarz, a children's book author and historian from Schaumburg.

With a table of books, videos and newspaper articles about Bly as a backdrop, Rymarz came out in a dress and hat from the 1890s to recreate one of the most courageous women in American history.

"Whatever became of Marshall Field's?" Bly asks, reminding attendees that she was last in Chicago to cover the Pullman Railroad strike in 1894, and took a train to Woodstockto interview a jailed union leader.

"I was also back in Chicago to cover the 1912 Republican convention, and I met former President Theodore Roosevelt at that time, and I also met my future husband."

Before embarking on a 37-year journalism career, Nellie Bly was born Elizabeth Cochrane on May 5, 1864, in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Her father died when she was 6, and her stepfather was an abusive alcoholic.

In January 1885, Cochrane was outraged by comments in a Pittsburgh newspaper column that indicated women should not be allowed to do the same work as men. …