Many women are known for things that shocked the women’s world in history. One woman specifically has left a lasting impression on the media world, and to people everywhere. She was Elizabeth Cochrane, or as many know her, Nellie Bly.
Elizabeth was born in Cochran Mills, Pennsylvania on May 5, 1867 to Mary Jane and Judge Michael Cochran. Her father died six years later, leaving her mother with fifteen children to raise. Judge Cochran, an upstanding member of the community, died without a will, which left the family without claim to their property and sending the family from wealth to near-poverty. Nevertheless, all of the children were sent to school and the family soon moved to a modest home in Pittsburgh. Elizabeth took on the responsibility of helping to raise her siblings. Elizabeth’s mother remarried, in an attempt to better the lives of her children. However, her husband was very abusive to the family so a divorce was soon carried out. Elizabeth wanted to help her family financially, and so at the vulnerable age of eighteen, she decided to go out and look for work. She soon discovered that only very low-paid occupations were available to women. This discouraged her greatly, although with her great imagination, it would not be long before she was making her mark on the world.
In 1885, she read an article in the town newspaper, the Pittsburgh Dispatch entitled “What girls are good for.” The article (which was written by a male) labeled women as only being good for housework and taking care of children. Elizabeth was furious at this, she could not believe how sexist the article was. She took it upon herself to write a letter of protest to the editor of the newspaper. George Madden, the managing editor of the “Dispatch”, was so impressed by Elizabeth’s unique writing skills in her letter (which she signed “Lonely Orphan Girl”) that he took out an ad in the Sunday Dispatch, pleading that Elizabeth come to introduce herself to him. Elizabeth saw the ad, and the very next day found herself at the office of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. On the interview, Mr. Madden asked her what type of articles she would write if she were to be a journalist. She replied that she felt newspapers should tell stories about the lives of ordinary people. Madden decided to hire her. The first piece she ever wrote for the paper was a rebuttal of the sexist piece she read!
When Madden decided he wanted to make Elizabeth a permanent member of his staff, he wanted to make up a pen name for her. After getting several suggestions from workers at the paper, he chose Nellie Bly; the character in the song “Nellie Bly” which was written by a man named Stephen Foster.
Bly’s journalistic style was marked by her “stunt reporting.” For example, she employed herself at a Pittsburgh factory so that she could investigate low wages and unsafe working conditions. She wasn’t only interested in the actually reporting of the story, as...