Washington DC was not on Nellie’s world trip itinerary, but it had to be on mine. The satchel she carried around the world is on display at the the Newseum there, courtesy of Nellie Bly biographer Brooke Kroeger. I had to see it.
Adjacent to the Capitol, the Newseum transports you across five centuries of journalism through multi-media presentations, hands-on exhibits and galleries.
I’d been hoping to be able to carry Nellie’s satchel or gripsack as she called it — just for a minute — but it’s well- protected and inaccessible inside a Plexiglas display. Even so, it was exciting to see an icon of her epic journey that so totally captures her spirit. When Nellie’s editor said he’d have to send a man around the world because a woman required a chaperone and innumerable trunks, Nellie showed him by stuffing everything she needed in a 16×7 inch satchel and travelling alone. Go Nellie.
Aside from her own display, Nellie stars in a 4-D ‘film experience’ designed to introduce us to the power of journalism. It recounts the 10 days she spent in the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women in New York and the reforms that followed her exposure of the cruelty there. It was terrific to see her role in investigative journalism celebrated so vividly — even if we had to endure shaking chairs and flashing lights to ‘heighten’ the 4-D experience.
Nellie is in good company at the Newseum with exhibits monitoring press freedom, a memorial to fallen journalists, a large section of the Berlin Wall, front pages from around the world and vivid Pulitzer-prize winning photographs. The legendary Joseph Pulitzer, creator of the prizes, was the owner of The New York World and Nellie Bly’s boss.
I visited the Newseum with my great friend Louisa Peat O’Neil, a travel writer and former journalist at The Washington Post, and my husband David Stanton who flew over from London. We were met by Peat’s friend John Maynard, Senior Manager, Exhibit Progamming at the Newseum.