Nellie Bly’s suitcase

In Which Nellie Bly Exhibits Her Role in History

Peat O'Neil (r) and David Stanton at the Newseum. Washington DC.

L Peat O’Neil (r) and David Stanton at the Newseum. Washington DC.

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.

Nellie Boy on display at the Newseum

Nellie Bly on display at the Newseum

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.

Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer

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.

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