« Stuff You Missed in History Class

SYMHC Classics: Nellie Bly & Stunt Journalism

2018-04-07 | 🔗

Today we're revisiting an episode from Sarah and Katie. Born in 1864, Nellie Bly wasn't your average journalist. She feigned insanity to gain entry into a mental institution. Join Sarah and Katie as they take a closer look at the life of Nellie Bly, America's original stunt journalist.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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What do you think we're previous hosts, Katy and fairer, though enjoy welcomed stuff? You missed in history, class struggle, Stockholm, hello and welcome to the pod cast Iron Katy named, and I'm very daddy and are subject for today have really captivated, though I hope you like earth. Much as do I think she's I knew professional heroin are subject, is Nellie Bligh and stunted journalism, and when, we Bligh embarked on the journalistic stunned that made her so famous witches feigning insanity in order to be committed to a notorious asylum, something I would not do as the health editor fellow journalist from a competing paper, picked up on the story and kicks the court appearance that resulted in her committal as real news. He he didn't pick up on the that it was a start and he wrote
circumstances surrounding her we're such as to indicate that possibly she might be the heroin in an interesting story. Indeed, we'd have to agree Nellie Blind, pioneered the era of girl stunt reporters women who wrote first hand somewhat brow reports that got him off the fashion and flower show and perhaps cat show me. Friday mornings down, take note and instead into the speediest, most dangerous parts of the city. This was big from about the late eighteen eightys to the early eighteen. Ninety is but no one was bigger than Nellie Bligh yeah. She starts off riding for five dollars a week and at the pinnacle of her career she's, making twenty five thousand dollars a year, which is big money at the time so we're going to start at the beginning, as we always do with our heroines, Childhood Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was born. May fifth, eighteen sixty four and Cochrane's mills, Pennsylvania and her father was a
Chris himself Judge Cochrane and he already had a family of ten with his first wife Elizabeth was his thirteenth child of fifteen and she was considered the most rebellious and so on mother Mary Jane likes attention and quickly and still that in her daughter, she has the baby Elizabeth christened in a bright, pink gown which earns her the nickname being and her childhood is comfortable. She lives in a nice mansion, has an easy life. You know the daughter of a judge, but things ain't when she's about six years old, when Judge Cochrane dies without a will and because he's already had this first family. His second family is left with no protection and there's no much anyway to be split between fifteen children. So is state is auctioned off and the second family moves into a modest home and pink helps taken
four siblings and her mother remarries, probably trying to make us more stable, lifer herself in her children, but unfortunately she marries and abusive alcoholic man and pink We even ends up testifying at their eventual divorce trial. Her brothers ended up being able to land decent white collar jobs, even though they didn't have a lot of education, so pink design. did that she liked to be independent and help support her mother she and run that the Indiana Normal School, when she was fifteen, to train as a teacher but ran out of money after one semester, a move to pit bird with her mother, where she helped run a boarding house and Pittsburgh as where she will meet her fortune, so we're gonna say to and eighty five when she gets her job at the Pittsburgh dispatch- and this is the most amazing way to get a draw. The story sheets
an angry anonymous letter to the editor of the paper in response to an editorial by the quiet observer Erasmus Wilson, who had written It's called what girls are good for, and Wilson was one of the most popular colonists in Pittsburgh and he was a civil war veterans and this piece he wrote, considered women useless outside of the domestic spear, and this really angered young pink because she knew that some women didn't have a choice but to work enough. an example of this herself in dont? Have any other option for she writes in, and the grammar isn't good, there's no punctuation. After all, she hasn't had much of a formal education, but it such a spirited letter and she's signs that the lonely orphan girl, that it completely captivate the editor of the paper and the managing editor of the Pittsburgh dispatch was George Madden, who thinks with his business sense that he's gotta get this girl to write for his paper, so he puts an ad in the Sunday paper
seeing that she come forward and she came to the office the next day and got her job as a cover born in apparently enough. Her first article is the response to Wilson's editorial her and she goes on to cover topics that interest her the conditions of work and girls and pick Burke and life in the slums. The archaic divorce laws in the state topic. Normally wouldn't fall to a woman reporter. Who would who would write more about flower shows capture Fashion and Madame eventually decides that she should be a permanent staffer, because, even though she's not well trained, she's good she's interesting, Hoddan and Miss Cochrane decide that she needed a norm to plumes says she get keep her personal and her professional and separate, and he chooses Nellie Bligh from an old Stephen Foster song.
But eventually one of Nellie Blithe stunts goes awry and she poses the sweat shop worker in Pittsburgh and the owner. get mad at the papers, negative coverage of their business and threatened to cut off all that are there advertising in the paper, so the editors back off and Nellis worst onto the fashion beat which she is not interested in. So instead she goes to Mexico from eighteen. Eighty, six to eighteen, eighty seven she travelled through Mexico doing could include real journalism. She wrote about corruption, the conditions of the poor details about the food. What bullfight were like but the mexican officials are eventually get so angry that she's expelled from the country and she returns to Pittsburgh, but If the editors haven't learn their lesson and they try to stick around the fashion. Flower show beat again and she quit. And before she leaves she, it's a note for Erasmus Wilson
Q. Oh I'm offer New York look out for me. Bligh gotta be the a great deal since she arrives in New York, looking for a job and decides that should really like to work for Joseph Pulitzer New York world. But really anywhere will do you no she's, not in a position to be to pick you up the time months later she still can't find work, she's running out of money, and she smooth talks her way and to the Office of Colonel John Cockerel who's, the managing editor of the New York World and since she gets her audience with them. She him waste. Any time immediately suggests a story where she would try well to Europe and return steerage class to report on all the immigrants coming into the. U S and conditions were like for them a board, a ship the other two rejects this idea. He thinks it's too challenging for a young, relatively experienced reporter so in its place he suggests why? Don't you instead pretend to be vain and have yourself committed at black holes, island
Yeah me that's easier, doesn't come much easier, but Nellie blithe into it. She finds out for the job he gives their twenty five dollars on the spot and she joy, the staff and starts to prepare for her first assignment this episode of stuff you missed in history class is brought to you by Norton three hundred and sixty with Lifelock. Let's just say, you're shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time that sure feels like your personal info is right there in your hand, but always the case, because as soon as you hit submit your purse information could start going other places. In fact, when you shop, bank or browse online, your personal info can get out of your control, which can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals more through demand more protection? why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company Norton three, sixty with lifelong is an all in one membership for your cyber safety that gives you device security, identity theft, protection and a Vps for online privacy.
No one can prevent all cyber crime and identity theft, but Norton. Three sixty with lifelong is your ally in today's connected world, because you're in oh, is out there sign four Norton, three sixty with lifelike today and save twenty five percent or more of your first year, go to Norton dot com, slash history, that's Norton, DOT, com, black history for twenty five percent off. Her peace as called ten days and a madhouse, and we want to say that Jean Marie Lutes article on girls, stunt reporting for american Quarterly was really helpful and researching this part about Cathy. I'm actually TAT starts Chris Polite with a huge help in actually obtaining the article using his magic library skills like his magic skills, and thank you to Chris so little background on black wells. It was an interesting place. It offered cheap.
psychiatric care for mentally ill immigrants, but the conditions were really bad. Charles Dickens had visited it on his american tore, but left very quickly because it depressed himself and reporters were interested in it to a Harpers weekly reporter had taken to supervise tour and and writing that it was a pretty comfortable, fair and clean place that you can only imagine, of course, in one's own visually tourist or yes, the people are curious about what it's actually like on the inside. So blind, I've got to get inside to write this report she's. for the story to she doesn't have much of a formal education, no real professional training in journalism, no dentures she's, a total amateur but she's, really good and she's out there and adventurous enough to convince law enforcement and mental health professionals that she is actually insane, but she still able to maintain that middle classes,
Stability that protect her reputation and make her popular as a female journalist nm case you're wondering how you fake crazy. You practice making faces in the mirror there actually illustrations of her doing. This is pretty awesome said, so she checks into a boarding house for women as nineteen year old Nellie Brown, leaving all her documentation behind acts irrationally. She stays up all night she's kicked out in the morning about won't leave the boarding house. So the matron calls the police the New York Times. covered her court appearance and described her, as I quote, serious way so in order to Vince the judge to send her to black whilst there, which is the really critical part of of this paper and she calls herself Nellie Marino and pretence to speak Spanish sort of trying to plan to prejudice is against emigrants and she dropped
this act as soon as she gets to prison, the the whole spanish speaking bet, but then he's gotta get past the actual doctors, the mental health Professionals who the professional bet is certainly called into question by what she runs into the doktor, who examines her assumes that she is a woman of the town which is our new favorite euphemism for prostitutes. before pronouncing her. This is a quote positively demented. I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where someone will take care of her end quote but trustingly. As soon as she's. In the word, she doesn't even bother feigning insanity anymore. I just act like a regular old self. She writes strange to say the more sanely I talked and acted the crazier. I was thought to be ensured. it's really terrible things inside of lack walls Asylum is, she sees
people forced eaten eels, rotten food, beatings and ice bass, and she describes her own ice bath. Pretty memorably. She says my Keith chattered and my limbs were goose, flashed and blue with cold. Suddenly I got one after the other three buckets water over my head ice, cold water, too. Into my eyes, my ears, my nose and my mouth I think, sperience the sensation of drowning person, as they dragged me, gasping, shivering and quaking from the tub for once I did look insane and call this reminds me of the Sarah Waters book I just finished actually and she overhears another woman, another patient, shrieking and being beaten while given her own eyes bath and the woman is dead the next morning, just all this terrible stuff that happens in here, but this is a risk He's stunt for nearly two aside from just being forced to take ice baths. Female insanity, especially hysteria, which is what He was trying to imitate. Was
often conflated with nymphomaniac that time, which would it both female patients to abuse from people within the hospital. Even the ambulance driver who takes Nellie two black wealth right. after the series is published that he knew she wasn't crazy because she didn't make a path at him and he thought suggesting her to a quote task, which we can only imagine what that would be decided that she looked to respectable after a few days, a Blackwell supply asked for a re examination but was denied and eventually Pulitzer sent an attorney to rescue her. We were wondering just telling me What do you know where he is that Nellie? Why I am, rather than getting back from lunch or something and being like she's, been God for a while? We should. We should check on her when she's out she starts writing her series and peace called ten days and a madhouse in the first instalment is so incredibly popular that her byline becomes a headline for the next piece and
actually results in some social changes are there's a grand jury investigation of the asylum. The care improves one quote that really sort of sums up her experience there with this one perfectly sane and healthy woman, shot her and make her sit up straight from six. A m to eight p m. Do not allow her to talk or move during these hours. Give her thing to read: let her know nothing of the world or its doings and see how long it will take to make her insane pretty good and the serious turns her into a star. She continued to write first hand. Investigative accounts will give you some of our favorite titles. First, my The girls who make boxes Nellie Bligh tells how it feels to be a white slave. You ve got apply as a mesmerist, which kind of reminded me of our Houdini out trying to be a servant. Nellie belies strange experience, Nellie Blind
poor men. She visits the homes of poverty in the model, workingman town in the underlines how home Nellie belies visit to an institution for unfortunate women which reformed prostitutes, are supposedly reformed and sheep offered. All kinds of related statue poses as an unwed mother, to expose baby buying and poses a thief spend a nightingale and death that's why? I guess not. Quite risk areas. Some of these pieces she uncovers the bribery of lobbyists in the legislature, and in one story titled visiting the dispensaries Nellie Blind narrowly escaped having her tonsils amputated. She goes to a throat doctor that poor people are forced to visit for medical care and applies got to make herself look. Poor says she has a sore throat, and this is what she writes- that
tassel needs a piece cut off. The doktor said: dropping the probing instrument and taking up another whose bright gleam gave me a chill I'll do a great deal, I think pathologically to get a story, but I won't give up half a tomfool lesson. To us all. I would draw the Ryanair issuing a price of journalism. Support paper was really good at appealing to multi ethnic multi class audiences from women immigrants, poor people. So this socially active journalism that still doesn't offend the middle class. Mores is really popular, yeah and in the arab world. Ino encourages this girl stunt journalism to a certain extent, but they all find a way to keep other would lies anonymous. They don't want to have. All of these her star? Then you get a start before exactly
So they decided to call everybody else is not Nellie Bligh MEG merrily and by eliminating the individuality of stout reporting, which was what made it so captivating. In the first place it someone's own experience, they can talk other. background and how their according to whether seeing by removing that it did the John it doesn't really extend the the early nineties does that of stuff. You miss than his request is brought to you by blinkers. Blinkers. Does my favorite new app on my and it works on your phone or your tablet or your web browser, and it takes the key take away from thousands of nonfiction books and condenses the mounted just fifteen minutes that you can read or listen to. I love to immersed myself in the details of our really long book, but blinkers helps me weed out the one
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Only when you sign about blinkers to dot com, slash history, glass, the Madhouse House is what makes no reply so famous what she's remembered for as they stand, we're about to talk about supporter the plan to promote the building of the world's new offices. He wanted to launch a stunt where a journalist but travel around the world trying to beat the record set Eddie Fictional, Phileas, Fogg, Jewels burns, hero and around the world and eighty days yet point she kind of reminds me not only of branded star but also currently Diego, so poet their plans on sending a man but blithely but she'll do it for less time for another paper unless they send her so Pulitzer Caves and on November, fourteen eighteen, eighty nine. She
sales from New York City to beat the record and whither. She takes two hundred british pound silver, a tiny bit of american money, which was really more of an experiment to see if other countries accept An american money, a twenty four hour watch and a huge, jar of cold cream, which I think it's funny to sheep hardly brings anything on this trip. She's trying to pack the light, but must have been key component of her beauty, regiment. Ask and care is very important and of Charles Bodell we're going with her. He would have told her to bring truffles but her despatches are so sporadic on her travels to go back to our actual story. The word has to resort to promoting the stunt. However, they and they run articles on geography. They hold contests where people guess what her time will be. I, with the prize of a trip to Europe puts, gets them. One million entries yeah. They basically try to keep it in the paper anyway. They can and
Blind, meanwhile, is travelling by ship train, rickshaw, borough, catamaran and other girls that reporter joins. Then to this that quest, I gas, Cosmopolitans Elizabeth busy Land and she to compete. Unsuccessfully can. It goes to show how popular this girl stunt journalism was at the time and her chin I'm pretty cool she essence of stopping for wine and biscuits with jewels Verne at his home in France. I wish you would invite me shows her a map of Phileas Fogg's routes and has hers lined up next to it say now they can compare and she and spending Christmas and a Canton leper colony gives us another chance to to redeem ourselves from saying Canton. Like Canton, Ohio, all through the opium worth outcast were very sorry,
She runs into a storm while failing for Japan and at this point, she's getting worried that she's not going to complete the journey on time and she's I would rather go back to New York dead than not a winner. I don't know if that's just her her now flair for sensationalism back. Maybe that's why she fell but day sixty eight. She docks in San Francisco and she hears that there might be a small pox quarantine on her shit, so she jumped overboard onto a ton boat to make sure that she's not held up in San Francisco. And the world has chartered a special train for her to take her to Chicago. It's got one sleeping coach and an engine though it makes wreck time. Getting there She arrived in New York at seventy two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds to bans. Parades and fireworks and the world's proclaims and all caps the state
coach days are ended. The new age of lightning travel begun. Though she said here star at this point and she rights around the world in seventy two days in eighteen, ninety, but fight her huge success with this stunned and huge success. It brings the paper she's, not even given a bonus, so she resigned to reject in disgust bosses eventually agree to treat her, spectrally and pay her better and says she returns in eighteen? Ninety three to do more work on women's rights, unwed mothers, some interesting and influential interviews till she profiles the Box or John L Sullivan right now, Susan, be Anthony and interviews the anarchist among old man. You got a lot of requests for her. Women have to do her in another pod cause he's been ragtime to another Houdini venture seat. There all connected people. She also
However, the Pullman strike from the perspective of the strikers, which the only journalists to do that sets critical. Thanks, no reply, She ended up writing an unsuccessful novel before marrying millionaire Robert Seamen in eighteen. Ninety five, she was thirty. He was andy- and he was president of the American Steel Barrel company and the ironclad manufacturing company groups is quite a name he leaves her his business after his death ten years later. But she has. bad luck with that she's grown accustomed to living her life as this New York matron managing the business is not hurt Forte and employs commit some forgeries. There is a lot of litigation. The company, their bankruptcy, and she loses the fortune. She answered going to England for vacation in nineteen fourteen kind of two escaped some of these troubles and world war, one breaks out which would be
bad for your average traveller. But for Nellie Bligh, it's an opportunity to do them. Some ballistic work she starts. Reporting through nineteen nineteen and goes home on her mothers. Health began to fail at night, twenty. She joined the New York Journal and she died Pneumonia Pneumonia January, twenty, seventh, nineteen, twenty two in New York City and the a bit you area was over all than he. I thank you so much for joining us for this Saturday classic, since this is out of the archive, if you heard an email address or facebook, you are l or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now. So here is our current contact information, we're at history, podcast that how stuff works, dot com and then we're at missed in history all over
media that is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, pinterest and Instagram. Thanks again for listening more on this and thousands of other topics visit how stuff works, dot, com. This episode is brought to you by Norton Lifelong when you shop, bank and brow with your smartphone. It feels like your personal info is right there in your hand, but when you hit some it can go far away, leaving you potentially vulnerable to cyber criminals more through demand? More protection, Norton, three he would lifelong is an all in one. Cyber safety membership for your devices, identity and online privacy no one can prevent all cybercrime and identity theft, but Norton three sixty with lifelong is your ally in today's connected world, save twenty
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