Full Name: Nellie Bly
Birth Date: May 5, 1864
Death Date: January 27,1922
Location: Blackwell’s Island, New York, USA
Monument Type: Historic/Residence
The daring Nellie Bly came into existence as Elizabeth Jane Cochran in May 1864. Known affectionately as “Pink,” she spent her childhood in Pennsylvania. Her mother’s birth name was Mary Jane Kennedy, and Michael Cochran, a respected judge, was the girl’s father. Both parents had been married before. Nellie’s family was large, and Nellie’s father passed away during her childhood. A new man would enter Nellie’s life, as Mary Jane entered into matrimony yet again; Nellie’s stepfather was an infamous alcoholic. Nellie exhibited bravery when she vividly testified about how her stepfather maltreated Mary Jane. She showcased, at fourteen, the pluck that would define her calling in journalism. Nellie’s courageous contribution helped her mother secure a divorce. Nellie Bly’s girlhood, particularly the tragic aspects of it, shaped her urge to carve her own path.
Nellie looked into teaching, a respectable profession for women. The vibrant teenager attended State Normal School. Nellie, during this stage, transformed herself. She shifted her surname from “Cochran” to “Cochrane.” Nellie, unfortunately, did not finish out her time at the institution due to financial issues. Still, Nellie carved out an identity for herself. Instead of education, she would showcase her tenacity in journalism. She would come across a sexist piece out of one of Pittsburgh’s major newspapers. Nellie took up a pen, and countered the write-up with her characteristic boldness. Due to her ardent rejoinder and her subsequent gumption, Nellie, at not yet twenty-one, gained assignments with that newspaper, western Pennsylvania’s Pittsburg Dispatch. The writer’s eventual moniker, “Nellie Bly,” came out of the world of music. The dauntless reporter learned to unveil stories.
As she moved forward through her twenties, Nellie ultimately found herself laboring at the legendary New York World. Nellie submerged herself in undercover work in an asylum. Her fascinating Ten Days in a Mad-House gained traction. She emerged as a trendsetter in “stunt reporting” and captivated readers. Nellie dashed across our globe, hustling through seventy-two wild days plus some change to accomplish the task. Nellie’s escapade pushed boundaries about what was considered respectable for white women to do. Moreover, during her journalism days, Nellie profiled several famous women: Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, Belva Lockwood, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Nellie herself had developed into a renowned woman through her journalistic endeavors.
Nellie would eventually marry. Before turning thirty-one, Nellie became Robert Livingston Seaman’s wife. Nellie outlived her spouse; she passed away in 1922. Upon her death, the Washington Times stated, “Nellie Bly knew life as few newspaper writers of the day.” The girl from Pennsylvania had lived an adventurous one. Nellie’s work enabled future female journalists to thrive.
Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. New York: Random House, 1994.
“Life Story: Elizabeth Cochrane, aka Nellie Bly (1864-1922).” Women & The American Story, New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. https://wams.nyhistory.org/modernizing-america/modern-womanhood/nellie-bly/
“Nellie Bly Dies of Pneumonia in N.Y. Hospital.” Washington Times, January 27, 1922, 2.