Nellie Bly

In which Nellie Meets Jules Verne

AMIENS, FRANCE – 23 November 1889

Nellie risked a time-guzzling deviation only 8 days into the race, sacrificing two nights of sleep, to accept an invitation to the home of Jules Verne –  the author who inspired her own voyage. It meant going to Amiens, France.

“Oh how I should love to see them,” she said upon learning of the invitation when she arrived in London. “Isn’t it hard to be forced to decline such a treat?”

Jules and Honouring Verne at home with their dog Folette. Amiens 1894

Jules and Honorine Verne at home with their dog Folette. 1894

Two days later she received a memorable welcome from Jules and Honorine Verne. “Jules Verne’s bright eyes beamed on me with interest and kindliness, and Mme. Verne greeted me with the cordiality of a cherished friend,” Nellie recalls. “Before I had been many minutes in their company, they had won my everlasting respect and devotion.”

Nellie’s visit with the Vernes lives on today at the Maison Jules Verne, a living tribute to the French author attracting visitors from around the world. Many rooms reflect the descriptions in Nellie’s own book Around the World in 72 Days.

Nellie’s description of the Verne’s salon is framed and hung there for all to read:

“The room was large and the hangings and paintings and soft velvet rug, which left visible but a border of polished wood, were richly dark. All the chairs artistically upholstered in brocaded silks, were luxuriously easy…”

Here at the  Maison Jules Verne, for the first time, I was quite literally following in Nellie’s footsteps. Nellie Bly and I were in the same room …separated by 125 years.  I guess I might have asked Mr Verne the same questions:

Have you ever been to America? Answer: Once to Niagara Falls. I know of nothing I long to do more than to see your land from New York to San Francisco.

How did you get the idea for your novel? Answer: “I got it from a newspaper.”

It was an article in Le Siècle newspaper showing calculations on travelling around the world in 80 days that Jules Verne discovered the basis of his novel. They had not taken into account the difference in the meridians which gained a day for Phileas Fogg and meant he won his bet. Had it not been for what he called ‘this denouement’, Jules Verne told Nellie he would never have written Around the World in 80 Days.

By candlelight they visited the author’s study which remains just as Nellie saw it. She was surprised by its modesty. So was I. “One bottle of ink and one penholder was all that shared the desk with the manuscript.” The tidiness of his manuscript impressed Nellie giving her the idea that “Mr Verne always improved his work by taking out superfluous things and never by adding.” Great advice for all writers and something I must keep in mind as I write this blog.

Jules Verne's home today

Jules Verne’s home today

Before she knew it, it was time to leave her new friends the Vernes. They shared a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire before bidding each other farewell.

The race was on.

Jules and Honorine Verne diligently followed Nellie’s progress around the globe and sent her a congratulatory telegram when she reached America. That fleeting visit made a lasting impression.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.

In which Nellie Bly Packs Her Bag

“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

OK Nellie, you’re on.  My rolling rucksack is slightly larger (21 by 10 inches) than your gripsack (16 by 7 inches). Even so it’ll be a squeeze to get everything in. But like you, I am determined that my baggage will not slow me down so a single piece of cabin baggage it is.

My expedition cabin bag

My expedition cabin bag

Unlike you, I will not be travelling in the same outfit. Indeed today’s technology means I can pack lots more in a much smaller space. So I’ve treated myself to a mosquito-repellent quick-dry skirt, a whisper-light, sun-resistant travel dress and heat-wicking t-shirts. Like your over-sized jar of cold cream, it will be my electronic equipment that takes up the most space — tablet, mobile phone, chargers, adapters — and I won’t forget my camera as you did. The tablet is my equivalent of your ink stand, pens and pencils.

I’m swapping three bandanas for the three veils you took. Not too worried about a tennis blazer or dressing gown, and my flip-flops can substitute as slippers. I’ll leave the hankies and ruchings (lace, muslin and other materials for trimming dresses) this time.

Nellie's global gripsack

Nellie’s global gripsack

Once I have ‘crushed’ everything in as you did, my reaction will likely be the same as yours:

“Packing that bag was the most difficult undertaking of my life; there was so much to go into such a little space.”

Nellie Bly’s packing list:
three veils,silk bodice,two travel caps,slippers, toiletries*,inkstand, pens*, pencils and paper*, sewing kit*, dressing gown, tennis blazer, flask and drinking cup, hankies and fresh ruchings, cold cream

My packing list:
two skirts, travel dress*, rain jacket, shorts, 4 t-shirts,khaki trousers, sewing kit*, toiletries*, swimsuit, first aid kit, glasses and sunglasses, research material, tablet, mobile phone, camera, chargers and adapter; notebook* and pens*; running shoes,sandals, flats,flip flops,torch,scarf and bandanas, microfiber towel, undergarments*

*the same

It’s official!

It’s official.  The 125th Anniversary Voyage of Nellie Bly’s Race Around the World is registered with the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). You can visit the RGS Expedition Database and see it here

Remarking on Nellie Bly’s achievement in 1890, then RGS President Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff said:

“While I can’t see her trip will benefit science, it shows what a plucky young woman with a powerful newspaper at her back can do. For my part I think it best in travelling to see foreign countries slowly, but if any more enterprising Americans desire to emulate Miss Bly’s example it is much better to travel rapidly than not to travel at all.  Miss Bly has proved herself a remarkable woman and I hope she will get a good husband.”

The Nellie Bly ‘expedition’ is also endorsed by  Women in Journalism.

 

 

 

‘Thumbs up’ for Nellie Bly in the Sky from Adventure Travel Writer

Renowned travel writer, adventurer, teacher and producer of the Adventure Travel Writer blog, L. Peat O’Neil has endorsed the 125th anniversary voyage of Nellie Bly. Many thanks to Peat for her acknowledgement and inspiration!  Read it here. Check out the Adventure Travel Writer blog for ideas, news and top tips.

Music for Nellie Bly

THE NELLIE BLY PROJECT

A new work by composer Samantha Boshnack – inspired by the life of daredevil, feminist, journalist and iconoclast Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922).

Samantha_Boshnack_0

Samantha Boshnack

Sam Boshnack has taken on the next large scale project for her Quintet – a narrative work inspired by the life of 19th century investigative journalist Nellie Bly.

“Both as a young girl and today, Nellie Bly greatly inspires me,” says Sam. “A reporter at a time when women were not welcome into journalism, she was a fiery and persistent individual who worked within extreme confines to achieve great things for both the subjects she covered (including mental health and prison facilities), and for women in her field.”

Sam has created a work in four movements highlighting stages and elements of Bly’s personality and career:

 “Early Years” establishing her voice – combining elements of punky irreverence, with a yearning to deeply understand the human experience and its unfairness

“Asylum Expose” exploring her extreme efforts to write about the atrocities of a mental asylum

“72 Days” tackling her race around the globe to beat Jules Verne’s fictional record, while the world cheered her on. Listen to 72 Days here.

The piece concludes with “Lasting Legacy” – an homage to Bly and the impact she made to those who came after her.

Sam combines exploration of Bly’s life with propulsion from her words, incorporating quotes and segments from her books as spoken and sung elements within the suite. In addition to the music-based work, Boshnack hopes this concert will be an opportunity to educate the public about the life of this impactful, yet mostly unknown, iconoclast.

72 Days – is based on Nellie Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, in which she set out on a race around the world to beat Jules Verne’s fictional record, while the whole world watched and cheered her on. The idea for this story was hers, but she had to fight hard to make it happen because her editors did not believe it could be done.

The two telling quotes I extracted from her book are – “It’s only a matter of 28,000 miles… I shall be back again” and “I would rather go in dead and successful than alive and behind time.”

Once again we see Nellie being unaffected by the immense task before her and with an absolute conviction that she would succeed. The two methods of transport available to her were railroad and steamship – I have incorporated the rhythmic elements of these modes into the music as well.

All pieces performed by The Sam Boshnack Quintet featuring Samantha Boshnack (trumpet/voice), Beth Fleenor (clarinets/voice), Dawn Clement (piano/keyboard/voice), Isaac Castillo (bass/voice) and Max  Wood (drums)

Used by kind permission of  Samantha Boshnack

Why Nellie? Why Now?

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly coloured by Loredana Crupi http://loredanacrupi.wordpress.com/

It’s now 129 years since crusading journalist Nellie Bly 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 80 Days. She won the race on 25 January 1890 and became a global celebrity.

125 years later, I set out to follow in her footsteps around the world. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society  (RGS), my expedition was registered with RGS and endorsed by Women in Journalism.

We both travelled alone with one small case. She went by ocean liner and train. I flew. She raced, I didn’t. She covered 21,740 miles in 72 days; I completed 22,500 miles in 32 days.

She journeyed through the Victorian age, dashing 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, she is one of the world’s top 10 female adventurers.

Nellie is best known for her record-breaking journey, but even more importantly she pioneered investigative journalism. Her stories brought about sweeping reforms in asylums, sweatshops, orphanages and prisons. She burst into male-only newsrooms paving the way for women reporters. She was the first journalist to report from the Eastern front in WWI.

I followed in Nellie Bly’s footsteps because I want to put her ‘back on the front page.’

I travelled 6 September – 8 October 2014 — by air  because sea travel is limited by the routes available and hostilities occurring in some locations.  Which is why I named the blog ‘Nellie Bly in the Sky.’

I was back in time for the 125th anniversary of the start of her world race on 14 November 1889 and her triumphant return to New York on 25 January 1890.

Please read the blog posts at the right to follow in the footsteps of Nellie Bly.

I travelled on the same 7 am train to Kandy from Colombo, Sri Lanka as Nellie Bly.