Exactly 125 years ago on November 14, 1889, crusading journalist Nellie Bly left New York Harbour to start what would become the fastest-ever journey around the globe.
She raced through a ‘man’s world’ — alone and literally with the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days. Seventy-two days later, she won the race and became a global celebrity. 125 years later, I set out to follow in her footsteps around the world.
We both travelled alone with one small case. She went by ocean liner and train. I flew. She raced, I didn’t. She covered 28,000 miles in 72 days, I completed 22,500 miles in 32 days. She journeyed through the Victorian age, breaking conventions along the way. I travelled through the Information age, blogging along the way. She started from New York. I started from London. We both finished with book-length memories and a profound appreciation for the kindness shown to us everywhere we went.
To this day Nellie Bly is one of the top 10 female adventurers. But what seems to have been forgotten is her role as a pioneer of investigative journalism who paved the way for women reporters.
Nellie’s crusades in print brought about sweeping reforms in asylums, sweatshops, orphanages and prisons. Back in 1887, she had herself committed to the Women’s Asylum on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) and exposed the cruelties and hardships the patients endured. She burst into male-only newsrooms proving that women were more than capable and was the first woman to report from the Eastern Front in WWI.
Let’s pay tribute to the courage, spunk and determination of Nellie Bly on the 125th anniversary of the day she steamed out of America on the Augusta Victoria … and into history.