A: Research Question
What impact did Nellie Bly have as a muckraker and feminist in the progressive era? In order to determine the impact Nellie Bly had as a muckraker, the publicity she received from the press is going to be examined. In addition, her accomplishments in reforming mental asylums as a journalist and her strides towards feminism are going to be examined. First hand accounts of the conditions in mental asylums at the time, from Nellie Bly and other reformers, are going to be examined. State laws and funding regarding mental asylums and the treatment of the mentally ill are going to be examined in order to assess the effectiveness of her muckraking. The breadth of her fame is going to be examined, through biographies and first hand accounts of her story, in order to assess her impact around the world and on the way the people of the time viewed women professionals.
B: Summary of Evidence
Originally born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, Bly has made many significant strides in the world of women journalism. She was born in 1864, and was a female muckraker during the Progressive era. (Christensen 1) After landing a job with the newspaper The Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885 she decided to pack up and move to New York. She received a job at the New York World newspaper. Her first assignment from the newspaper was to feign mental illness in order to be committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. (Garraty 78) The Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum was known for mistreating its patients. In 1840, the insane in the United States numbered 17,456 out of the total population of 17,069,453 people. The country’s fourteen hospitals for the mentally ill had a capacity of less than twenty-five hundred beds. (Herrmann 9) In search of a job, she accepted the challenge made by the New York World. She feigned mental illness and madness and was committed to the asylum for ten days. She entered the asylum under the pseudonym Nellie Bloom, that way she was able to keep track of her belongings because her initials were the same. While she was in the hospital, she was horribly mistreated. She acted completely normal and sane once inside asylum, however. She later recorded, “the more sanely I talked and acted, the crazier I was thought to be.”(Bly) While she was in the mental institution, she carefully recorded her experiences. After ten days, legal officials fought to get Bly released, and she was released from the Blackwell Lunatic Asylum. Upon release, she wrote about her experiences in an article titled “Ten Days in a Mad-house”, which was published in the New York World. The article was extremely popular and was later published into a book and sold. (Bly) As a result of her visit to the asylum and the exposure it resulted in, the City of New York dedicated 1,000,000 dollars more per year than previous years for the care of the insane. (Bly) Nellie Bly’s next big stunt was one that was recognized around the world. It had been fifteen years since Jules...