This is a part of the Adventurers Past & Present series, looking at adventurous individuals from both the depths of history and the modern day, to inspire our own everyday adventures.

Adventurers Past & Present: Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, an American journalist and novelist born in 1864. A pioneer in her field who launched a new kind of investigative journalism, Nellie’s most famous endeavours include circumnavigating the world in seventy-two days, and faking insanity to gain access to a mental institution.

Inspired by the tale of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days, Nellie suggested to her editor at the New York World that she travel the world in an attempt to turn the story into reality for the very first time. On November 14th 1889 this is exactly what she set out to do, returning to the USA just seventy-two days later.

A couple of years before this, however, was when she completed her most famous work, faking insanity to investigate reports of brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. It took little effort to have Nellie declared insane and committed to the asylum, and once there she found a lot to report back on. Patients were tied together with rope, rats roamed the dirty hospital freely and nurses repeatedly beat patients if they would not be quiet. After ten days enough was enough and Nellie was set free after coming clean about the undercover operation.

Where do you find inspiration for your adventures?