Do you know the story of Nellie Bly, one of the most fascinating American women journalists?
Her story was one that inspired a popular character in the second season of American Horror Story, as she was an investigative journalist who revealed the horrors that took place inside one of New York’s most famous insane asylums.
Nellie was born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, in 1864. At the time, her full name was Elizabeth Jane Cochran.
Her father owned a successful mill but passed away when she was very young. Since her father passed away suddenly and without a will, Nellie and her family were forced to leave the mill and start over.
When she was 15, Nellie enrolled in the State Normal School in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where she stayed for only one term. Then, she left school because her family was struggling financially, so they moved once again and settled in Pittsburgh.
Nellie knew she needed to find work to help support her family. The Pittsburgh Dispatch published an article about how women don’t belong in the workforce, which made her very angry, so she penned a spirited letter to the editor, who was so impressed by her writing that he invited her to write for the paper.
She began working as a reporter and columnist for The Pittsburgh Dispatch and started using the name Nellie Bly, inspired by a well-known song.
However, Nellie didn’t stay with The Pittsburgh Dispatch for long, as she was dissatisfied with the limiting pieces she was assigned and eventually quit.
Nellie searched for a paper that would take her more seriously as a reporter and writer, so she moved to New York City in the late 1880s.