'American Experience' Focuses on Exploits of Nellie Bly

By Cox, Ted | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

'American Experience' Focuses on Exploits of Nellie Bly


Cox, Ted, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Ted Cox TV/radio columnist

Nellie Bly was a woman intruding on a man's world, a reporter working in the anything-goes days of journalism, an American asserting her independence just as the United States was becoming a global power.

A compelling figure who is now a footnote to history, BLY is a perfect subject for "The American Experience," the excellent and wide-ranging PBS documentary series. "Around the World in 72 Days," which debuts at 9 p.m. today on WTTW Channel 11, covers Bly's rags-to-riches rise through the journalism field in an hour, a brisk pace to rival even Bly's record-setting 1889 trip around the globe.

This Horatio Alger success story seems so contemporary, even in its period detail, it's like a new work of fiction -- what happens to an American Girl when she grows up.

Born Elizabeth "Pink" Cochran, Bly was the 13th child of a 19th century U.S. industrialist, born to his second wife. When he died, her mother and siblings were all but abandoned. The mother's second marriage failed, leaving the family stranded in Pittsburgh, the burgeoning Iron City, described by one Atlantic magazine writer as "hell with the lid off."

Bly briefly attended a teachers' college, but had to quit for lack of money. In one of those stereotypical, Alger-esque strokes of fate, she answered a chauvinist Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper columnist with a blistering letter she signed "Lonely Orphan Girl." The paper's editor was so struck, he advertised for Lonely Orphan Girl to come to the paper, then hired her as a writer.

Renaming herself after the servant girl in Stephen Foster song, Bly went on to display astute muckraking instincts. But she was shunted into the usual area for a woman reporter: the ladies' page.

For a time, she escaped that by going to Mexico and sending back dispatches. But on her return she was assigned again to the ladies' section until she quit, leaving only the message: "I'm off for New York Look out for me. Bly."

For six months she pursued a job until finally John Cockerill, editor of Joseph Pulitzer's trashy New York World, fobbed her off with an impossible assignment: Get committed to the city's infamous insane asylum for women on Blackwell's Island and come back with an expose. Bly did (she was diagnosed as delusional with a persecution complex), and when World lawyers finally freed her after 10 days (she couldn't convince the doctors she had been faking it) she came back with an article that created a stir even in those muckraking days. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'American Experience' Focuses on Exploits of Nellie Bly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.