Today is the 151st birthday of muckraker journalist Nellie Bly. Google has put up an animated video on their website with Karen O singing in the background as a tribute to Bly’s trailblazing career as a journalist who went undercover, traveled the world, and gave a voice to those in need.
Nellie Bly was the pseudonym for Elizabeth Cochran, beginning her journalism career with Pittsburgh’s Dispatch. Bly became one of many muckraker journalists during the turn of the century. Muckrakers were investigative journalists who wrote about social and political corruption, acting as watchdogs and going undercover.
Probably her most notable work in muckraking journalism was her story Ten Days in a Mad-House, for which she had herself committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island as an undercover assignment. Bly essentially went to a boarding house for a night, acted like a crazy person, pretending to hear voices, until the police were called and a series of doctors declared her insane. Simple as that. Her story resulted in public anger over the mistreatment of patients in asylums and eventually lead to an increased budget to reform these institutions.
Bly left the journalism world in her 30s, married a millionaire and become president of Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. She was also an inventor with several patents.