Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Cochran, was unlike any other. Her inquisitive nature and ability to see with an open mind led her literally around the world.
Her adventures began when she responded to a column in a Pittsburgh paper entitled "What Girls are Good For". The column was known for sharing ideas that women are primarily responsible for childcare and house work. Her response was so well written and captivating that she was asked to write another piece, when the editor saw that her writing wasn't just a fluke but was actually talent, he offered her a full time job. She took the pen name, Nellie Bly.
Nellie was a curious by nature so as her journalist life continued she began to look for stories that ran deeper. She was assigned to write about women in the workforce but when she wrote about the negative work environments the business owners complained and she was reassigned to the fluffy fashion columns.
Later another controversial topic caught her attention, the horrible treatment of the mentally ill. Nellie was so determined to uncover this story that she had herself committed to a local institution so she could get the inside scoop. She lasted 10 days in the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island before her employer, New York World newspaper, had to testify to her sanity for her release. She then published her findings in a book called Ten Days in a Mad-house, which was an instant hit.
There are several stories of Bly uncovering inhumane dealings never shying away from asking hard questions, especially when it came to how others were being treated.
Along with her desire to search for justice she also had an adventurous heart. Inspired by the Jules Verne book, Around the World in Eighty Days, she convinced the paper to fund a trip for her to beat the book's suggested 80 days. She circumnavigated the world all alone in 72 days, setting the world record.
Nellie was brave, adventurous and a consistent scavenger of truth in a world that is often murky.
Her life and example provides the perfect opportunity to teach our children that it takes valor to speak out for the right and that is it ok to ask questions until things are clear. In fact in a world with information at our finger tips it is imperative that we teach our children that not all sources are accurate and it is up to us to find the truth just as Nellie did.
Moral of the story:
It takes guts to uncover the truth and don't believe everything you read, especially on the internet.
Start an observation journal with your kids.
Get a few pieces of paper fold them in half and staple them together to make a small study journal for your little ones to observe. Explain that part of a journalists job is to just observe and record what they see.
Some things they could observe and draw or write about are: birds or bugs outside, the process of something done in your house such as the way you cook dinner or how dad fixes something, an observation of your street activity or a little sibling.
Have them first just write down the things that they observe with their senses: see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
Next have them see if there are anythings they can deduct from their observations that would answer any Who? What? Where? How? Why? and When? questions.
Last have them write down anything they may have learned from these observations that they didn't know before or that would make an interesting story.
Questions for discussion:
Why is it important for us to ask questions?
Journalists make conclusions based off of what they observe and Nellie was able to help others see some harmful truths but how could this also be a problem?
What is the difference between facts and opinions?
How can we be sure to be like Nellie and asking the right questions that can help others?
Today we can access information at any time on the internet. Should we believe everything we read?
What are some resources we can trust?
The Bly dress: