Born May 5, 1864 in Cochran’s Mills, PA, Nellie Bly began her journalism career at the Pittsburgh Dispatch after responding to an editorial headlined “What Girls Are Good For.” The author essentially argued not much, but Ms. Bly had a few ideas she shared in a letter to the editor pointing out the paper’s negative representation of women. In turn, the editor published the letter and offered her a job as a columnist where she began writing under the pen name Nellie Bly, taken from a Stephen Foster (another famous Pittsburgher) song of the same name. Despite her well-liked column, she was relegated to pieces that only addressed women’s issues, and decided to move to New York to expand her career.
Once she began writing for New York World, Bly began planning her most famous move: circumnavigating the globe, inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Upon meeting Bly, Verne wished her luck saying, “If you do it in seventy-nine days, I shall applaud with both hands.” Her journey lasted 72 days, setting the world record. Bly established herself as a renowned journalist as well as a pioneer of what we now call investigative journalism for her work documenting New York’s infamous mental institutions. After a break from writing, Bly continued in her later years to cover the women’s suffrage movement and World War I, establishing her place as a feminist hero and icon.
Nellie Bly proves once again that Pittsburgh is, and always has been, a leader in all industries, creating the best and brightest to lead us into the future.