Nellie Bly

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Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was an amazing woman who was responsible for most of the reforms made to New York's mental hospital. ''Why would she ever want to go into an insane asylum"'' you might ask. Well, Nellie Bly was a reporter unlike all others. Her boss, Joseph Pulitzer, was much like her. They both had the desire to get the inside scoop on New York's issues. However, the meaning of ''inside scoop'' to them was much different than it was to most people. Instead of interviewing about the issue, Bly and Pulitzer wanted live the issue. Nellie Bly had a strong desire to stand out from others. She wanted to be different, not just any old journalist. Not only that, but her abusive step father drove her to desire independence and respect. Respect for a woman in a man's world was hard to find, which is why she worked harder and harder to get it. She thought that a different, dangerous job would earn her the respect all women deserve. In the end, she got what she wanted. Nellie Bly was admired by many by the time of her death.

Asylums were awful. That is, before Nellie Bly came around. After disguising herself as an insane woman and living in an asylum for 10 days, she wrote about her horrible experiences in the book, 10 Days in a Mad House. Her writings utterly shocked people. Life inside of an asylum was unknown and basically uncared for, that is, until Bly's book. Now people knew the harsh reality, and it was horrifying. At first, the only change was made to Blackwell's Island Asylum. New York government allocated, or took from taxes, $3 million and donated it to this certain asylum where the show went down. For a while, that was mainly the only change made, along with some small reforms here and there in other asylums. However, only a decade later, the National Committee for Mental Hygiene was formed. This committee helped benefit the mentally ill in all of New York City. Although Bly's work wasn't the only reason this committee was formed, it did have a leading role in it.

On the day of her biggest and most famous jobs, Nellie Bly dressed as the part of an insane woman. Her costume was on and she was ready to perform the show. She went into a boarding house for women and started acting the best she knew how to. It wasn't long before someone called the cops, and she was sent directly to Blackwell's Island Asylum. Her plan had worked! For ten days, Nellie Bly faced ice cold baths, abuse, bug-infested, inedible food, and so much more. Everyday she suffered in order to fix these horrible asylums. At the end of the day, in secret, she wrote about her experiences of the day. Finally, after getting out, she put her words into a book, 10 Days in a Mad House. Their plan had worked, and people were informed of the horrible secrets lurking inside insane asylums.

Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Cochran, was born May 5, 1864 in a small Pennsylvania town. She was one of 13 children. After her father died when she was 12 years old, her mother married an abusive man. This man gave her the desire of independence and providing for her family.. She was a journalist, businesswoman, and a social reformer. Nellie Bly attended Indiana State Normal School for teaching for one year, until money ran out. This ended her formal education at 15. After reading a fiery letter to the editor from Bly, Joseph Pulitzer offered her a job immediately. They were the perfect team: he needed a journalist who would take creative jobs, and she was more than willing to do so. Bly was one of the most famous woman journalist of her time because of her fearless behavior and creative jobs that took the next step beyond boring interviews and reportings. Instead of hearing about the issue, Nellie Bly lived the issue. She was most famous for disguising herself as an insane woman and living in Blackwell's Island insane asylum for 10 days. After returning home, she wrote about her horrible days there in her book 10 Days in a Mad House. Along with that, Nellie Bly was very famous for correcting fictional details in the book Around the World in 80 Days. Nellie Bly herself took a trip around the world, and in 72 days' time at that. After, she came home and wrote yet another book, Nellie Bly: Around the World in 72 Days. Along with these two books, Nellie Bly also wrote 6 Months in Mexico. After a very busy career, Bly finally settled down and married a 72-year-old, successful businessman, Robert Seaman, in 1895. Unfortunately, he died nine years later in 1904, leaving Bly with his entire steel company. Again, Nellie Bly went to work reforming, fixing many issues in her late husband´s company. Nellie Bly lived this life, managing her husband´s two multi-million dollar companies, for almost 10 years. Unfortunately, bankruptcy hit her hard, forcing her to fly to Europe in 1914 to escape financial ruin. She went back to being a journalist there, and became very popular again. After 5 years, Nellie Bly returned to America in 1919 and wrote for a newspaper about pressing issues. In 1922, pneumonia took Bly's life, ending it at 56. Nellie Bly was loved by many, named the ''best reporter in America''.


"I always had a desire to know asylum life more thoroughly-a desire to be convinced that the most helpless of God's creatures, the insane, were cared for kindly and properly." -Nellie Bly

"I think I experienced some of the sensations of a drowning person as they dragged me, gasping, shivering, and quaking, from the tub. For once I did look insane." -Nellie Bly

Insane asylums of late 1800s were anything but helpful. Most of the staff was untrained and didn't know how to properly handle mentally challenged people. Many times patients were handcuffed to walls in cells, and sleeping areas and rooms were never cleaned. Because the staff knew little about how to handle the mentally insane, their forms of ''treatment'' were inhumane. Staff would douse their patients in sweltering hot or ice cold water to "shock" them into becoming normal. These people were beaten and barely fed. The little they had to eat was inedible. All in all, the asylum life for the mentally insane was unfair and brutal.


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