I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Ray Freeman with the Special English program, People inAmerica. Every week we tell about a person important in the historyof the United States. Today, we tell about a reporter of more thanone-hundred years ago.
The year was eighteen-eighty-seven. The place was New York City.A young woman, Elizabeth Cochrane, wanted a job at a largenewspaper. The editor agreed, if she would investigate a hospitalfor people who were mentally sick and then write about it.
Elizabeth Cochrane decided to become a patient in the hospitalherself. She used the name Nellie Brown so no one would discover heror her purpose. Newspaper officials said they would get her releasedafter a while.
To prepare, Nellie put on old clothes and stopped washing. Shewent to a temporary home for women. She acted as if she had severemental problems. She cried and screamed and stayed awake all night.The police were called. She was examined by doctors. Most said shewas insane.
Nellie Brown was taken to the mental hospital. It was dirty.Waste material was left outside the eating room. Bugs ran across thetables. The food was terrible -- hard bread and gray colored meat.
Nurses bathed the patients in cold water and gave them only athin piece of cloth to wear to bed.
p>During the day, the patients did nothing but sit quietly. Theyhad to talk in quiet voices. Yet, Nellie got to know some of them.Some were women whose families had put them in the hospital becausethey had been too sick to work. Some were women who had appearedinsane because they were sick with fever. Now they were well, butthey could not get out.
Nellie recognized that the doctors and nurses had no interest inthe patients' mental health. They were paid to keep the patients ina kind of jail. Nellie stayed in the hospital for ten days. Then alawyer from the newspaper got her released.
Five days later, the story of Elizabeth Cochrane's experience inthe hospital appeared in the New York World newspaper. Readers wereshocked. They wrote to officials of the city and the hospitalprotesting the conditions and patient treatment. An investigationled to changes at the hospital.
Elizabeth Cochrane had made a difference in the lives of thepeople there. She made a difference in her own life too. She got herjob at the New York World. And she wrote a book about her experienceat the hospital. She did not write it as Nellie Brown, however, oras Elizabeth Cochrane. She wrote it under the name that alwaysappeared on her newspaper stories: Nellie Bly.
The child who would grow up to become Nellie Bly was born duringthe Civil War, in eighteen-sixty-four, in western Pennsylvania.
Her family called her Pink. Her father was a judge. He died whenshe was six years old. Her mother married again. But her new husbanddrank too much alcohol and beat her. She got a divorce ineighteen-seventy-nine, when Pink was fifteen years old. Pink decidedto learn to support herself so she would never need a man.
Pink, her mother, brothers and sisters moved to a town near thecity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pink worked at different jobs butcould not find a good one.
One day, she read something in the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper.The editor of the paper, Erasmus Wilson, wrote that it was wrong forwomen to get jobs. He said men should have them. Pink wrote thenewspaper to disagree. She said she had been looking for a good jobfor about four years, as she had no father or husband to supporther. She signed it "Orphan Girl".
The editors of the dispatch liked her letter. They put a note inthe paper asking "Orphan Girl" to visit. Pink did. Mr. Wilsonoffered her a job.
He said she could not sign her stories with her real name,because no woman writer did that. He asked news writers forsuggestions. One was Nellie Bly, the name of a girl in a popularsong. So pink became Nellie Bly.
For nine months, she wrote stories of interest to women. Then sheleft the newspaper because she was not permitted to write what shewanted. She went to Mexico to find excitement. She stayed there sixmonths, sending stories to the Dispatch to be published. Soon aftershe returned to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she decided to look foranother job. Nellie Bly left for New York City and began her job atthe New York World.
As a reporter for the New York World, Nellie Bly investigated andwrote about illegal activities in the city. For one story, she actedas if she was a mother willing to sell her baby. For another, shepretended to be a woman who cleaned houses so she could report aboutillegal activities in employment agencies.
Today, a newspaper reporter usually does not pretend to besomeone else to get information for a story. Most newspapers bansuch acts. But in Nellie Bly's day, reporters used any method to getinformation, especially if they were trying to discover peopleguilty of doing something wrong.
Nellie Bbly's success at this led newspapers to employ morewomen. But she was the most popular of the women writers. Historyexperts say Nellie Bly was special because she included her ownideas and feelings in everything she wrote. They say her own voiceseemed to speak on the page.
Nellie Bly's stories always provided detailed descriptions. Andher stories always tried to improve society. Critics said Nellie Blywas an example of what a reporter can do, even today. She saw everysituation as a chance to make a real difference in other people'slives as well as her own.
Nellie Bly may be best remembered in history for a trip she took.
In the eighteen-seventies, French writer Jules Verne wrote thebook, "Around the World in Eighty Days." It told of a man's attemptto travel all around the world. He succeeded. In real life, no onehad tried. By eighteen-eighty-eight, a number of reporters wanted todo it. Nellie Bly told her editors she would go even if they did nothelp her. But they did.
Nellie Bly left New York for France on November fourteenth,eighteen-eighty-nine. She met Jules Verne at his home in France. Shetold him about her plans to travel alone by train and ship aroundthe world.
From France she went to Italy and Egypt, through South Asia toSingapore and Japan, then to San Francisco and back to New York.Nellie Bly's trip created more interest in Jules Verne's book.Before the trip was over, "Around the World in Eighty Days" waspublished again. And a theater in Paris had plans to produce a stageplay of the book.
Back home in New York, the World was publishing the stories Blywrote while travelling. On days when the mail brought no story fromher, the editors still found something to write about it. Theypublished new songs written about bly and new games based on hertrip. The newspaper announced a competition to guess how long hertrip would take. The prize was a free trip to Europe. By Decembersecond, about one-hundred-thousand readers had sent in theirestimates.
Nellie Bly arrived back where she started on Januarytwenty-fifth, eighteen-ninety. It had taken her seventy-six days,six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds. She was twenty-fiveyears old. And she was famous around the world.
Elizabeth Cochrane died in New York in nineteen-twenty-two. Shewas fifty-eight years old. In the years since her famous trip, shehad married, and headed a business. She also had helped poor andhomeless children. And she had continued to write all her life fornewspapers and magazines as nellie bly.
One newspaper official wrote this about her after her death:
Nellie Bly was the best reporter in America. More important isthe work of which the world knew nothing. She died leaving littlemoney. What she had was promised to take care of children withouthomes, for whom she wished to provide. Her life was useful. Shetakes with her from this Earth all that she cared about -- anhonorable name, the respect and affection of her fellow workers, thememory of good fights well fought and many good deeds never to beforgotten. Happy the man or woman that can leave as good a record.
This VOA Special English program, People in America, was writtenby Nancy Steinbach. Your narrators were Shirley Griffith and RayFreeman.