‘The extraordinary tale of Nellie Bly, who in 1890 beat Phileas Fogg at his own game by circumnavigating the globe for real in less than 80 days, was all but forgotten until a modern adventurer retraced the pioneering traveller’s footsteps to retell her story.’ Daily Express 27 May 2021
“Both Bly and Brown are delightful travel companions…Perfect for armchair travellers and those who enjoy narrative history or biography.”
“I am absolutely amazed, and thrilled, to find out about your trip around the world, à la Nellie Bly, and to read your account of it in Following Nellie Bly. And needless to say to hear that Eighty Days was helpful to you in your travels. Just know how impressed I am with your travels — you’re a worthy descendant of Nellie.” — Matthew Goodman, bestselling author of Eighty Days
I set off 125 years later to retrace Nellie Bly’s footsteps in an expedition registered with the Royal Geographical Society. Through the recreation of that epic global journey, I aim to bring to life Nellie Bly’s remarkable achievements and shine the light on one of the world’s greatest female adventurers … and a forgotten heroine of history. Please join Nellie and me on our global journeys in the pages of Following Nellie Bly.
Nellie Bly was born on 5 May 1864 which would make her 158-years-old in 2022. In the run-up to her birthday you can read the latest news about her here and listen to podcasts about her here. For her 151st birthday, Google created a Google Doodle that you can watch here.
Please join artist Amanda Matthews, creator of The Girl Puzzle monument, and I on Tuesday February 15th at 6.30 pm EST as we celebrate the life and legacy of Nellie Bly. Free registration here https://www.nypl.org/…/clone-rihs-lecture-footsteps… (library barcode not necessary). Thanks to the New York Public Library and Roosevelt Island Historical Society.
“Nellie Bly told the stories of other women. Now her own extraordinary story is being told in a monumental installation on Roosevelt Island in New York City.” Amanda Matthews, artist and creator of The Girl Puzzle monument celebrating Nellie Bly.
“This installation is spiritual. It’s not just faces. It’s not just concrete and bronze. It’s a spirit oflove, a spirit of peace. There’s hope here.” Cutia Bacon Brown, social worker whose face is among those representing women from diverse or marginalised communities in The Girl Puzzle.
Journalist Nellie Bly made history on Roosevelt Island in New York City in 1887. On 10 December 2021 she did it again. I was there.
The Girl Puzzle monument, honouring the life and legacy of Nellie Bly, was unveiled steps away from the scene where she pioneered a brave new journalism. Investigative reporting was born when Bly feigned madness to investigate the brutality suffered by vulnerable women committed to the insane asylum on the island bordering Manhattan. Her accounts in The New York World and book Ten Days in a Mad-House horrified the public and brought about sweeping changes.
Named after her first published piece in which Bly boldly defied discrimination, The Girl Puzzle celebrates America’s first investigative journalist who challenged injustice in asylums, prisons, sweat shops — and gave voices to the voiceless. Like The Girl Puzzle’s creator, artist Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art (right), I and many others have worked to retrieve Nellie Bly from history and transport her – and all that she represents — into the 21st century to inspire us.
Although I most admire Bly for her investigative journalism, she is best known for her race around the world in 72 days in 1889-90 – alone with just a Gladstone bag – to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional 80-day record. To pay tribute to her I followed in Nellie Bly’s global footsteps 125 years later. Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World captures both of our journeys.
The Girl Puzzle monument represents the culmination of my goal. Nellie’s role has been acknowledged in a remarkable memorial celebrating her journalism and the humanitarian values she embraced. Ground-breaking in many ways, the Girl Puzzle also helps to address a shocking imbalance — less than 8 percent of statues in America commemorate women.
The monument consists of five 7-foot bronze faces and progressively larger mirrored spheres that reflect the impact of her reporting. Bly’s face is joined by four others representing women from diverse or marginalised communities who have overcome challenges.
Noting that the dedication was held on United Nations Human Rights Day, artist Amanda Matthews said: “Nellie Bly began her journey as a girl who dared not to be defined by someone else and emerged a woman who transcended her time and changed the world, leaving it a better place. I realised that the best way to honour Nellie Bly is to continue her work of advocacy into the 21st century.”
from Amanda Matthews,sculptor/designer/CEO PROMETHEUS Art
Nellie Bly told the stories of other women. Now her own extraordinary story is being told in a monumental installation just completed on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
Bly experienced the plight of those who are marginalized. She wrote stories that would move the needle toward equality and progress, especially for women. Highly regarded as America’s first investigative journalist, she set a precedent for what it means to be a voice for the voiceless.
The Girl Puzzle is not yet open to the public, but can be seen through the construction fence. An upcoming dedication ceremony is being planned in December 2021.
The Girl Puzzle honours Nellie Bly by presenting, on a monumental scale, faces of many women who have endured hardship, but are stronger for it. The monument gives visibility to Asian, Black, Young, Old, Immigrant, and Queer women. Their stories and lives are forever commemorated alongside Nellie Bly, whose face is cast in silver bronze, while the other four faces are cast in bronze. Each of them, rendered in partial sections that appear like giant puzzle pieces, show a depth of emotion and complexity of being broken and repaired. Three mirrored spheres reflect the significant phases of Bly’s life: her early career in journalism, her impersonation of madness to gain entry into the asylum as an undercover reporter, and her 72-day trip around the world recounted in Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World.
The installation is dually inspired by Bly’s incredible response to bigotry which became her first published headline in 1885, The Girl Puzzle; and by her seminal work, Ten Days in a Madhouse, that shaped her life of dedication and empathy for others.
The adventures of trailblazers Nellie Bly and Isabella Bird came to life as Jacki Hill-Murphy and I shared their stories at Stanfords Travel Bookshop in Covent Garden, London on 15 July. We interviewed each other about our travel heroines and their legacies before turning it over to our full-house audience for a lively Q & A session. Many thanks to Stanfords for inviting us and to our lovely audience for joining us.
The life and journeys of two trailblazing women and their amazing adventures! Travel the world with Nellie Bly and Isabella Bird as Jacki and I recount their adventures and our own re-enactments of them straight from our newly-released books Following Nellie Bly and The Life and Travels of Isabella Bird. Join us live at Stanfords, the world’s biggest and best map and travel bookshop.
Following Nellie Bly has been hitting the airwaves as the extraordinary tale of the trailblazing journalist, who in 1890 beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional 80-day record, unfolds in America and the United Kingdom in a radio broadcast, a podcast and an online RGS event. In a range of interviews for radio and podcasts, I share how I retraced Nellie Bly’s footsteps to retell her remarkable story 125 years later after her iconic journey. Click the links to listen.
All aboard for a #FollowingNellieBly bookstagram tour departing Monday 10 May for a whirlwind trip around the world. Join Nellie, me and 10 talented book lovers for a globetrotting Instagram journey. Check out the itinerary above on penswordbooks. Bon voyage!
“Settle down in a comfy chair with a cuppa and take a mental trip in the footsteps of Nellie Bly. I enjoyed every page and was left with a desire to go back and read more about Nellie Bly.”
“This book is the story of Nellie, her legacy, her pioneering spirit, her taking on difficult situations head on as well as the author’s quest to emulate the journey with the same winsome spirit.”
“Rosemary J. Brown set off to find Nellie, and she found her in a few places, but the world has changed so much with natural disasters, demolished buildings and other changes that it was hard to find spaces which had remained exactly the same. However, Nellie’s spirit was with her, and she writes vivid and colourful descriptions of her travels.”
“You will learn a lot about engaging Nellie Bly and her personality by reading this book. It is fabulously interesting especially if you are intrigued by world travels, women’s independence in the Victorian age and the undertaking of a contemporary woman in her footsteps. This book prompted me to read more on Nellie Bly so I have requested books from the library.”
“Serendipitous meetings and connections with Nellie’s trip abound as though her spirit is accompanying Brown. The reader will appreciate the historic background provided by Brown in every location.”
“I enjoyed the author’s lively writing style and I loved learning about the history of each country Brown visited. I also found myself wanting to visit each place and have added more countries to my travel bucket list!”