Monday, January 19th, 2009
THIS WEEK’S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1890: Nellie Bly blows through town; 1897: “Little Pete” (the King of Chinatown) is murdered in a barbershop.
I got a hot tip that this was the anniversary of the day Miss Nellie Bly stopped by on the home stretch of her dash around the world. But as it turns out, well … some background first, I guess.
For starters, who the heck was Nellie Bly?
Sixteen years old in 1880, Miss Elizabeth Jane Cochrane of Pittsburgh was a budding feminist. When a blatantly sexist column appeared in the local paper, the teenager fired off a scathing rebuttal. The editor was so struck by her spunk and intellect that he (wisely) hired her, assigning a nom de plume taken from the popular song: “Nellie Bly”.
Her early investigative reportage focused on the travails of working women, but the straitjacket of Victorian expectations soon squeezed her into the ghetto of the women’s section — fashion, gardening, and society tea-parties.
Nellie despised this, and tore off to Mexico for a year to write her own kind of stories. Back in the States, she talked her way into a job at Joseph Pulitzer’s legendary New York World. Her first assignment was a doozy — going undercover as a patient into New York’s infamous Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Her passionate reporting of the brutality and neglect uncovered there shook the world, and Nellie Bly became a household name.
More exposÃ©s followed — sweatshops, baby-selling — but then, in 1888, Nellie was struck by a different idea. read on …