Nellie Bly: Investigative Journalist Who Changes The world
There are some people who cannot abide cruelty or injustice in the world and will do literally anything to mange things right. At a time when women were struggling for basic rights Nellie Bly took her power which was her writing and journalism to take on institutions that housed those who were not mentally well.
“That such an institution could be mismanaged, and that cruelties could exist ‘neath its roof, I did not deem possible. 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”
The Collected Works of Nellie Bly (Annotated)
She was a writer at The New York World in 1887 and decided to have herself committed to Blackwell Island asylum so she, the 23 year old put on a disguise and called herself Nellie Moreno and pretended to be an immigrant. Nellie was one of the first to go undercover at the asylum so she could give a voice to those who did not have one. The article she wrote about her first hand experience printed as Behind Asylum Bars but more commonly known as called Ten Days in a Madhouse. It was tremendously popular and Nellie was released thanks to the newspaper attorney.
Based on her work the committee of appropriations provided 1 million dollars more to those with mental impairments in the 1880s.
After a month she returned to Blackwell with a Grand Jury panel. Much of what she saw that was awful had been corrected thanks to her shining a light on injustice. Food and sanitation had been made better and the meanest of the workers had been sent away.
I could do an entire season on Nellie and she will show up again for her jaunt around the world in 80 days but this story of a person who did not have the right to even vote or do much of anything without a guardians signature changed an entire institution with her bravery and her words.
Nellie lived from 1864 until 1922 and made her time her full of adventure and causes. Just reading her story has made my world feel a little brighter and more possible.