SRI LANKA: Daily News

Sri Lanka Daily News



Wednesday, September 24, 2014 (All day)

                                                                 Following the footsteps of Nellie Bly
                By Nushka Nafeel

Nellie portrait“Crusading Journalist Nellie Bly jumped off the page at me. She appeared as I was researching Victorian Women’s adventures. And she wouldn’t go away,” Rosemary J. Brown, a freelance journalist from London said expressing her feelings that insisted her to follow the footsteps of Nellie Bly.

Rosemary who is following the footsteps of Journalist Nellie Bly on the 125th anniversary of her record breaking voyage around the world in 72 days, spoke to Daily News about her voyage and Nellie Bly. Colombo was also one of the destinations of Nellie Bly.

When Rosemary was asked what made her follow the footsteps of Nellie Bly, she said she wanted to draw everyone’s attention towards the crusading journalist who paved way for all young women journalists. She is the one who broke through all doors that were kept shut for many years.

The world is full of colourful characters, but not all their faces can be found in magazines or in celebrity shows. The younger generation is drawn to celebrities and models. Today’s perspectives of role models are totally changed. Some of them become role models in the lives of many young people simply by the outer appearance. Try not to make models your role models, follow reality and truth. With time you will become the role models of many. Rosemary had an urge to change the perspective of the younger generation by bringing the life of Nellie Bly into light.

Year 2014 marks Nellie Bly’s 150th birthday and 125th anniversary of her best known adventures around the globe in a record breaking 72 days. Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922) was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She was a ground-breaking reporter known for a record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days. She was a pioneer in her field, and introduced a new kind of journalism.

Nellie’s mission

Be ready to go at a moment’s notice and don’t take no for an answer –
    Nellie Bly

For nearly a year Nellie’s proposal to go round the globe breaking Phileas Fogg’s record waited on The New York World newspaper editor’s desk. Suddenly on November 12, 1889 Nellie was asked if she could start her journey the day after tomorrow. “I can start this minute,” she said.

Rosemary J Brown


When Nellie first forwarded her round the world feature idea, her editor insisted that only a man could do it. Nellie told him to assign a male; but she would convey her idea to another paper and win the race. Then he accepted her idea. In Nellie’s day, no one would send a young woman to the far corners of the earth without a companion. Most of them thought that the numerous trunks required by a female traveler would be a hindrance to win the race.

Nellie was able to overcome all the problems. She carried a grip sack (16 by 7 inches) and she included all the important things into it. Finally, she won the race. If one is travelling simply for the sake of travelling, and not for the purpose of impressing one’s fellow passengers, the problem of baggage becomes a simple one, Nellie Bly (1889) has said.

Nellie speaks of Colombo

Nellie visited Colombo after traveling to USA, England, France, Italy, Egypt and Yemen. She enjoyed staying in Colombo. She visited Mt. Lavinia and Kandy. “About nine o’clock in the morning we anchored in the bay at Colombo, Ceylon. The island, with its abundance of green trees, was very restful and pleasing to our eyes after the spell of heat we had passed through on the ocean. With all our impatience we could not fail to be impressed with the beauties of Colombo and the view from the deck of our incoming steamer,” Nellie says in her book.

“I had such a strong belief in the world’s greeting me as I greeted it that I refused to arm myself.” This was the reply given by Nellie when she was suggested to carry a gun for protection on her travels.

“I always have a comfortable feeling that nothing is impossible if one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction,” Nellie Bly said.

Once she went to The New york World and took an undercover assignment for which she agreed fake insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. She pretended to have amnesia. Finally she got the doctor’s approval that she is a hopeless case and went to the Bellevue hospital where patients were treated and she experienced its conditions first hand.

Her report, later published in a book as ‘Ten Days in a Mad-House’, caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. She was also one of the reasons for many reforms during that period.

Nellie’s later years

After making a lot of changes and creating a new path in 1895, Nellie Bly married millionaire manufacturer Robert Seaman, who was 40 years older than her. She retired from journalism and became the President of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co.

We rarely come across such amazing characters. All we know is about Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale. Women in today’s society have certainly gained influence when we compare them to the women of yesterday.

Today’s women have a broad scope of the world and achieve great heights in their lives. But women like Nellie Bly are real gems of that period when women were not given a prominent place in society.

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