Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)

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9780143107408: Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)

The first edited volume of work by the legendary undercover journalist

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, Nellie Bly was one of the first and best female journalists in America and quickly became a national phenomenon in the late 1800s, with a board game based on her adventures and merchandise inspired by the clothes she wore. Bly gained fame for being the first “girl stunt reporter,” writing stories that no one at the time thought a woman could or should write, including an exposé of patient treatment at an insane asylum and a travelogue from her record-breaking race around the world without a chaperone. This volume, the only printed and edited collection of Bly’s writings, includes her best known works—Ten Days in a Mad-HouseSix Months in Mexico, and Around the World in Seventy-Two Days—as well as many lesser known pieces that capture the breadth of her career from her fierce opinion pieces to her remarkable World War I reporting. As 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of Bly’s birth, this collection celebrates her work, spirit, and vital place in history.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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About the Author :

Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (1864–1922), an American journalist best known for her record-breaking trip around the world and her controversial undercover investigation of Bellevue Hospital's insane asylum.

Jean M. Lutes is an associate professor of English and director of academics for Gender and Women’s Studies at Villanova University.

Maureen Corrigan is the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, a lecturer at Georgetown University, and the author of the literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading! She lives in Washington, D.C.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

Foreword

Every fall semester, the requests pop up on my university e-mail. The writers range in age from middle school to high school and they come from all over the country, but without exception, they’re always female. “Dear Ms. Corrigan,” the letters usually begin, “I am working on a project for the National History Day competition and I’ve chosen to research Nellie Bly.” Some of these students are writing papers or making poster boards; a few ambitious ones are making documentaries. They pepper me with questions they think I can answer because they’ve watched an American Experience documentary about Nellie Bly where I appeared as a talking head. One seventh grader tells me: “I became interested in her when I read a small story about her in my textbook.” A high school junior from Florida begins by confessing: “She was once an aspiring female journalist, just like myself.” The students say they want to know how Nellie Bly “affected the reform of asylum institutions,” how she “impacted journalism,” and how “she has influenced the women of today.”

I suspect these young women want to know something else, too. I know I sure do. I want to know how a poor, skimpily educated teenager named Elizabeth Cochran found the guts to transform herself into a reporter named Nellie Bly who helped change the world by writing about it.

Where did Nellie Bly’s strong sense of self come from? That, for me, is the central question at the heart of Bly’s life story. You hear her self-assurance even early in her life, in the back talk young Bly gave to men in authority who tried to box her into polite categories. Her editor at the Pittsburg Dispatch insisted on burdening Bly with genteel assignments deemed appropriate for women (the flower show, ladies’ lunches), despite the fact that she’d already made her mark on that newspaper’s pages with exposés of the grim working conditions of local factory girls and the gender inequities of contemporary divorce laws. So Bly up and quit. Before she left, however, Bly left behind a note for her narrow-minded editor: “Dear Q.O., I’m off for New York. Look out for me. Bly.”

The seedy boys’ club that was the New York newspaper world of 1887 did not welcome the arrival of this exotic creature—a girl reporter—into its ranks. After four months of fruitlessly trying to find a job, Bly elbowed her way into the employ of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World by accepting a dangerous assignment: she agreed to pose as a madwoman and go undercover at the infamous Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Her nightmarish account of her ten-day ordeal as a charity patient inside the walls of that institution reads like a chapter in a Gothic novel: Bly endured freezing baths in filthy water, rancid food, and the muted threat of physical and sexual abuse. Though Bly’s body was weakened, her spirit was not. During her time at Blackwell’s, she spoke up on behalf of more fragile inmates (some of them perfectly sane immigrant women who simply couldn’t speak English), and she lectured the doctor in charge about fire safety.

If Bly gained renown by writing about imprisonment, she became even more famous by showing how fast a woman could race around the world, unfettered. As usual, Bly first had to fight for her right to do the globetrotting assignment. Even though the idea of besting the fictional travel record of Jules Verne’s hero Phileas Fogg was Bly’s own, her editor at the New York World wanted to give the story to a male reporter. It just wasn’t done for a young lady to travel unescorted; moreover, she’d surely need to take along many steamer trunks for her wardrobe and other essentials. Ha! On two days’ notice, Bly threw some underwear and a jar of cold cream into a gripsack; then, she hopped aboard a steamship bound for England and didn’t stop moving until she reached the East Coast again seventy-two days later.

In fact, Bly never stopped moving. When she became a bride at the ripe old age of thirty, she took over the management of her husband’s factory and created an on-site gymnasium, library, and recreation center for the workers. In her boundary-breaking career as a journalist and an industrialist, Nellie Bly could teach Sheryl Sandberg a thing or two about “leaning in.”

I remember first learning about Nellie Bly the way a lot of girls still do: through an illustrated young adult biography. I must have been about ten when I read that book in my grammar school library and I was transported. In my imagination, Bly swirled together with Nancy Drew, Amelia Earhart, Jo March, and the few other autonomous female role models available to a girl growing up in the 1960s. I loved the way Bly looked in that famous photograph from her round-the-world trip: her ankle-length black checked coat and her cap were reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and her travel bag looked like the one carried by Mary Poppins. She was young and pretty, but not so pretty that she was intimidating. And best of all she was a writer (like I wanted to be); yet she wasn’t stuck at a desk. Long before Jack Kerouac made it a strictly macho thing to do, Nellie Bly went “on the road” to find her stories. She even picked up a pet monkey—shades of Pippi Longstocking!—in the East. What girl could resist?

Judging from my e-mail, lots of girls still can’t resist the story of Nellie Bly, nor should they. I’ve noticed, though, that none of those middle and high school correspondents ever use the phrase “stunt journalist” in referring to Bly, although that’s the kind of reporting that Bly is credited with pioneering. Maybe that term sounds too frivolous and self-promoting, especially for a National History Day project. It’s true that many of Bly’s assignments were often more than stunts, but it’s also true that Bly reveled in the spotlight. Bly’s fans these days seem to want to stress the social justice aspect of her escapades, as if to excuse all the publicity she generated about herself. In my letters back to Bly’s admirers, I always emphasize that she was both a reformer and a performer, a crusader and a one-woman sensation. I want these young women to understand what a huge achievement it was for Bly to insist on her own byline, her picture in the newspaper, and her own self-worth. Had Nellie Bly modestly hid her light under a bushel, it would have stayed there. I want these students to be vaccinated by Bly’s story against the career-crippling feminine desire to be liked; to be thought of as nice by their coworkers and bosses.

So where did it come from—Bly’s famous moxie—a quality that girls even in our own post-feminist age struggle to attain and hold on to? The rocky circumstances of Bly’s childhood and adolescence surely contributed to her independent attitude. The death of Bly’s father when she was six coupled with her mother’s disastrous remarriage to a drunken bully taught Bly not to rely on men for financial security. She also came of age during a time when the New Woman was pushing against traditional gender constraints in education, work, and even the domestic sphere. But beyond those explanations, there still lurks much mystery about the female force of nature known as Nellie Bly. She seems as self-generated as that fictional other Great American Enigma, Jay Gatsby. Like Gatsby, Bly came out of the nowhere of a small town to become the toast of New York City. Her ambitions—again, like Gatsby’s—drove her farther and faster; for a time, she even became wealthy and powerful. Fortunately for Bly, her fall was much gentler than Gatsby’s: she died at fifty-seven of pneumonia, bilked out of her factory’s profits but still industriously filing newspaper stories.

F. Scott Fitzgerald directly inserted Nellie Bly into his greatest novel: she briefly appears as Ella Kaye, the tough newspaperwoman who consorts with Dan Cody, the young Jay Gatsby’s mentor. It’s not a flattering portrait, but to Fitzgerald and his Jazz Age contemporaries, Bly’s stunts probably seemed as quaintly rough-and-tumble as Annie Oakley’s. Despite that quick brush-off, however, Nellie Bly never entirely faded from twentieth-century cultural memory. She lived on in inspirational biographies for juvenile readers (like the one in which I first learned about her) and eventually also caught the serious attention of feminist scholars influenced by the second wave women’s movement. The students who write to me these days may or may not consciously self-identify as feminists, but they’re motivated by impulses I would certainly call feminist to seek out information about a woman whose life story might teach them something about the freedom to dream big, about the need to develop self-reliance, and about the courage to speak on behalf of those who can’t speak up for themselves. Nellie Bly doesn’t let these young fans down. In 1885 the teenaged Bly published her very first piece: a response to a patronizing column in the Pittsburg Dispatch headlined, “What Girls Are Good For.” (Birthing babies was the answer.) Bly talked back to that reductionist argument, loudly and passionately. She wrote about the lives of girls like herself, girls who worked to support themselves and often their families; girls who felt a weary pride in their self-sufficiency. For over a hundred years, Nellie Bly has remained hard at work rebutting sexist stereotypes and instilling—particularly in her female readers—a sense of adventure and possibility.

Introduction

Nellie Bly (1864–1922) made herself into the most famous newspaper reporter in the United States by embracing the idea that a woman writer was, by definition, a bit of a spectacle. In an era when reporters rarely got bylines, Bly’s name appeared in the headline of almost every story she wrote. In lively prose, she produced her own brand of sensational news. Equal parts self-exhibition and self-deprecation, her stories featured a winning combination of ordinary common sense and extraordinary daring. At a time when newspaper editors hired women mostly to write about high society, fashion, recipes, and household hints, Bly traveled to Mexico to become a foreign correspondent. She got herself committed to New York City’s most notorious insane asylum to write an exposé. She specialized in what came to be known as stunt reporting. She worked in a factory, spent the night at a homeless shelter for women, visited an opium den, and posed as a desperate job seeker at a corrupt employment agency. She also tried out ballet dancing, elephant training, and prizefighting. In her most famous stunt, she raced around the world on two days’ notice. Although her undercover work often involved deception, the stories she delivered to her readers were always anchored in her own unique perceptions of people, places, and things. Turning the most demeaning assumptions about women upside down, Bly made a career out of being herself. She was often called plucky. I would rather call her brave.

Her life was as improbable as many of her journalistic escapades. Raised in near poverty with very little formal education, she rocketed to newspaper stardom in 1887, when she was still in her early twenties. In 1895, at the age of thirty, she married a millionaire industrialist nearly forty years her senior and lived abroad for several years. When her husband’s interest in running his own businesses flagged, she became head of his large manufacturing company and embarked on a second career as a businesswoman. When World War I broke out in 1914, she traveled to Europe and filed rare firsthand reports from the front lines in Austria and Serbia. Toward the end of her life, when she had lost her fortune through a combination of family conflict, poor financial oversight, and thefts from embezzlers, she supported herself by writing an advice column. She also served as an unofficial social worker, making appeals and setting up adoptions on behalf of abused and abandoned children. She took some breaks from newspaper work—most notably a sixteen-year hiatus that began just after her marriage—but she always returned to it. Her last newspaper column was published less than three weeks before she died.1

Bly’s personality has been celebrated much more often than her writing, and the outlines of her career have been kept alive in American popular consciousness largely by the many children’s books that have been written about her.2 Most of her work was published in newspapers that were discarded within a day, and the few books she published—three collections of her journalism and one undistinguished novel—were out of print long before she died. In the last three decades, Bly has inspired some renewed interest. A major biography of her came out in 1994.3 New editions of Around the World began seeing print in the 1990s, about a hundred years after her circumnavigation of the world, and new editions of Ten Days in a Mad-House began to appear in 2008.4 Some are even in foreign languages.5 Bly’s books and a substantial sampling of her journalism can now be found online, too, thanks to digital editions and fan websites.6 But these sources, welcome as they are, give readers little or no help in understanding the historical events and people she mentions in her work or the circumstances in which she wrote. Because it is simply not possible to appreciate Bly’s writing fully without the benefit of some context, Bly’s work has remained, for the most part, inaccessible to modern readers.

While this volume includes only a fraction of her published work, it aims to give readers a sense of the breadth and depth of Bly’s always lively reportage, along with just enough context to let the sparks in her prose fly once again. In addition to her two most famous stories, the asylum exposé and the trip around the world, both of which were published in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, readers will find Bly’s first published article, a defense of working women that appeared in the Pittsburg Dispatch; an article from her work as a correspondent in Mexico; two undercover investigations for the World; three articles about women’s issues for the World (“Should Women Propose?” and two interviews with women’s rights pioneers); four dispatches from the eastern front of World War I for the New York Evening Journal; and two advice columns, also published in the Journal, written in the final phase of Bly’s career. Although the selected writings span the length of Bly’s career, many come from the late 1880s, a period of relentless productivity for Bly in which she helped the World’s circulation numbers climb to an unprecedented high. In November 1888, a trade journal reprinted an item from the magazine Puck: “When a charming young lady comes into your office and smilingly announces she wants to ask you a few questions regarding the possibility of improving New York’s moral tone, don’t stop to parley. Just say, ‘Excuse me, Nellie Bly,’ and shin down the fire escape.”7

Bly tends to be remembered as a headline, not an author. But the skills at self-promotion that made her career possible would have been useless if they had not been combined with an imaginative mind, a wry sensibility, an eye for telling details, a light touch with dialogue, and a finely honed sense of how to cast herself as a character in her own news stories. Many women imitated Bly’s stunt reporting style, but no one succeeded quite the way she did. She wasn’t just the first; she was the best. When the novelty waned and public tolerance for sensational journalism declined, Bly found new ways to make her reporting relevant to her readers. Throughout her career, she wrote intensely subjective news reports. Her focus on her feelings may have run counter to ...

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Description du livre Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. État : New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, Nellie Bly was renowned as America s first girl stunt reporter . She was a pioneer of investigative journalism, including an expose of patient treatment at a mental asylum and a travelogue from her record-breaking race around the world in emulation of Phileas Fogg. This volume, the only printed and edited collection of Bly s writings, includes her best-known works as well as many lesser-known pieces that capture the breadth of her career from her fierce opinion pieces to her remarkable World War I reporting. N° de réf. du libraire APG9780143107408

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