Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World has landed!

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The remarkable story of one of the great pioneering women adventurers of the 19th century.
Latest reviews from Goodreads, Discovery, Pen and Sword

“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 read more about Nellie Bly.”

Both Bly and Brown are delightful travel companions…Perfect for armchair travellers and those who enjoy narrative history or biography.”

“Oh, how I would have loved to have known her! But this author makes me feel I practically do.”

“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

Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World is hot off the press and available from Pen and Sword here. Read more reviews.

It’s the tale of intrepid journalist Nellie Bly and her race through a ‘man’s world’ — alone and literally with just the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days. She won the race in 72 days on 25 January 1890 and became a global celebrity.

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. order here.

AROUND THE WORLD with Nellie Bly and Isabella Bird

Live at Stanfords, London on 15 July 2021 at 7pm

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.

Listen to this!

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 trio of interviews, 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.

House of Mystery Radio on NBC KCAA 106.5 FM Los Angeles/Riverside/Palm Springs, USA
House of Mystery Radio on NBC interview with Alan Warren and David North-Martino 30 March 2021

Royal Geographical Society with IGB
Around the World with Nellie Bly -The Royal Geographical Society  with IBG  
7 April 2021  

Chatting to a Friend with Adventurer Catie Friend
Chatting to A Friend with Catie Friend
6 May 2021

Coming this summer – Tough Girl Podcast with Sarah Williams!
Tough Girl Podcast

Travel with us on a Bookstagram tour

We’re going around the world together!

Starting Monday 10 May, join us in New York City, Amiens, London’ France (home of Jules Verne), Sri Lanka, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canton, China; Yokohama and Tokoyo, Japan –all the way back to New Jersey.

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! 

Reviews are coming in

Posted on Goodreads, Pen and Sword Books and Discovery. Take a look and leave your own review. I’d love to hear what you think.

“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!”

Read all about it: Journalist Nellie Bly is back in the headlines

Trailblazing journalist Nellie Bly is back on the front pages again as magazines and newspapers pay tribute to the courage and ‘can-do’ approach that sent her whirling around the world in 1889-90 — alone with just the clothes on her back.

In a special themed issue on breaking barriers and exploration, Harper’s Bazaar UK April 2021 featured ‘On the Trail of Nellie Bly’ in its pages. Editor Lydia Slater described Nellie as “… the pioneering journalist who took on Phileas Fogg (and beat him) in an era when it was shocking for a woman to travel without a chaperone.”

Nellie Bly is a cover girl in the current issue of Third Age Matters which features a four-page article with edited excerpts from my book.

The People’s Friend magazine highlighted Following Nellie Bly in its This Week We’re Loving feature in the 27 March 2021 issue calling her a pioneer of investigative journalism, and a campaigner who believed that nothing is impossible.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, The Guardian featured five writers who told how the pioneering adventurers of the past inspired their own epic trips — including me and Nellie Bly. In the Footsteps of Great Female Explorers notes how Nellie Bly was bent on winning the race whatever it took – dismissing Victorian propriety, and the fear of what lay ahead.

Nellie Bly also made the news at Women in Journalism where I wrote how she burst through barriers that kept women in their place – and took hers on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. A pioneer of investigative reporting, Nellie Bly opened the doors to male-dominated newsrooms and paved the way for us.

Following Nellie Bly with the Royal Geographical Society

Travel the world with Nellie Bly and me in this recording of the Royal Geographical Society online event on 7 April 2021 where Following Nellie Bly was launched. Join adventurer and host Jacki Hill-Murphy as we explore Nellie Bly’s iconic circumnavigation of the globe in 1889-90… and my re-enactment of it. With thanks to the Royal Geographical Society and Jacki Hill-Murphy and Helena Parsons of the West of England  and South Wales Committee. Watch here.

Join Nellie Bly and me for a free RGS online event 8 April at 7.30

Interview with adventuress Jacki Hill-Murphy FRGS

Travel the world with Nellie Bly and me in a re-enactment of her iconic circumnavigation of the globe in 1890 during a free online event for the Royal Geographical Society Wednesday 7 April from 7.30-9 pm (GMT). Adventuress Jacki Hill-Murphy will be in the interviewer’s seat as we explore Nellie Bly’s record-breaking travels when she spun around the world in 72 days to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional 80-day record. I followed in her footsteps 125 years later to get her ‘back on the map.’ Book your free place here.

Nellie Bly and I: In the footsteps of the great female explorers

The Guardian Adventure Travel 8 March 2021

Female adventurers Nellie Bly, Isabella Bird, Dorothy Wordsworth, Freya Stark and Nan Shepherd came together with the women who re-traced their epic journeys to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 in The Guardian on 8 March 2021. In the footsteps of the great female explorers takes us across deserts, up mountains and over oceans — from the Scottish Highlands to the Lake District fells, from India’s lower Himalayas to the Sahara in Morocco … and all around the world.

My contribution to the article explained my goal to reclaim journalist/adventurer Nellie Bly as a role model for my daughter and other millennials. Like me, in re-enacting the travels of their ‘muses’ — Jacki Hill Murphy (Isabella Bird), Kerri Andrews (Dorothy Wordsworth), Alice Morrison (Freya Stark) and Elise Wortley (Nan Shepherd) — paid tribute to women who left their inhibitions at home to walk on the wild side.

My contribution:

I wanted to reclaim Nellie Bly’s place as a role model

Temple visit in Nellie Bly’s Ceylon and my Sri Lanka

Intrepid journalist Nellie Bly circled the world faster than anyone ever had in 1890. She travelled alone, with just a Gladstone bag, and shattered the fictional 80-day record of Phileas Fogg, returning in 72 days after travelling 21,740 miles. The fearless globetrotter had achieved “the most remarkable of all feats of circumnavigation ever performed by a human being,” said the New York World, sponsor of her trip.

She was a global celebrity, now unknown. Determined to get her back on the map, I set off to retrace her epic journey 125 years later to reclaim her place as a role model for my daughter and other millennials. Like Bly, I travelled alone with one small cabin bag. The routes she traversed by ocean liner have all but disappeared so I bought a round-the-world ticket and flew. For more than a month, through eight countries and 22,500 miles, I re-blazed the Nellie Bly trail over Europe to Asia before crossing the international dateline to America to re-enact her daring departure and triumphant arrival in New York City.

In London I followed the streets she hurried through in a horse-drawn brougham to the former headquarters of P&O Steamship Company (in Leadenhall Street) to book her passages around the world. In the salon at Jules Verne’s home in Amiens, France, I imagined her conversing with Verne, the novelist who inspired her trip, as Robert Sherard, confidant of Oscar Wilde and great-grandson of William Wordsworth, translated.

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, I stayed at the Grand Oriental, the only hotel still standing that she stayed at on her whirlwind tour. When Bly was in Singapore, Orchard Road – now Asia’s most famous shopping street – was a shady lane bounded by nutmeg plantations and orchards. Bly spent Christmas Day in Canton, China (now Guangzhou) touring markets, temples and the more chilling side of the city with its execution ground, lepers’ colony and a jail as harrowing as a torture chamber. To my relief, that sinister side of Canton can no longer be traced. We both rode the historic Peak Tram in Hong Kong, and climbed inside the ancient bronze belly of the Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan. Rosemary visiting Bly’s grave in Woodlawn cemetery, a National Historic Landmark in the Bronx.

Bly was bent on winning the race whatever it took – dismissing Victorian propriety, and the fear of what lay ahead.

Bly was bent on winning the race whatever it took – dismissing Victorian propriety, the fear of what lay ahead and the need for anything more than the clothes on her back. That same determination had seen her pioneer investigative journalism two years before when she went undercover to reveal atrocities inside a women’s insane asylum. Although I most admire her campaigning journalism, it is her record-breaking race that defines Nellie Bly.

When her race and my re-enactment of it had ended, Nellie Bly and I both shared a profound gratitude for the goodwill shown to us everywhere and a renewed faith in humanity. As she wrote in Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, “To so many people this wide world over am I indebted for kindnesses … They form a chain around the earth.” Rosemary J Brown’s book Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World, is published by Pen and Sword on 31 March

Journalists Rachel Beer and Nellie Bly: Their Legacies Will Now Live On

Two trailblazing female journalists in the UK and USA laid in obscurity for decades despite their outstanding achievements in the last century. Now their legacies are being honoured in a newly-restored gravesite for Rachel Beer (1857-1927), the first woman to edit a British newspaper, two in fact; and a memorial installation for Nellie Bly (1864-1922), the pioneer of investigative journalism.

Until recently, Rachel Beer’s headstone failed to note her remarkable career as editor of both The Sunday Times and The Observer at the end of the twentieth century. Her neglected marker in the Tunbridge Wells Municipal cemetery defined this convention-busting journalist only as the daughter of David Sassoon. Thanks to a campaign led by esteemed journalist Ann Treneman and funding from The Observer and The Sunday Times, Rachel Beer’s monumental role is now engraved on a marker on her newly-restored grave.

Across the ocean in America,  fellow newspaper legend Nellie Bly laid in an unmarked ‘pauper’s’ grave for 56 years until 1978 when the New York Press Club erected a headstone calling her a ‘famous reporter.’  But like Beer’s former epitaph, it is a considerable understatement. A memorial installation paying tribute to her accomplishments is now planned for New York City near the site where investigative journalism was born when Nellie Bly went undercover to expose atrocities inside the women’s insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island, now Roosevelt Island. Her accounts, later compiled in a book called Ten Days in a Mad-House, brought about massive reforms.

Although I most admire Bly for her investigative journalism, she is best known for racing around the world in 72 days in 1889-90 – alone with just a Gladstone bag – to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional 80-day record in Jules Verne’s renowned book. To pay tribute to her, I followed in Nellie Bly’s global footsteps 125 years later. At the end of the journey, I made a pilgrimage to her grave in New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery where I learned that like Beer, she laid in obscurity for decades.

A chapter of my forthcoming book Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World is devoted to visiting her modest grave. But my next visit to New York will lead me to her memorial designed by artist and sculptor Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art in Lexington, Kentucky. More than 130 years after her break-through exposés of the asylum, Nellie Bly is returning to Roosevelt Island in a memorial that will celebrate her legacy as a journalist and a humanitarian.
A version of this post first appeared on the Women in Journalism website.