On This Day: Trailblazing Journalist Completes Her Voyage

January 25, 2024

The American Girl will no longer be misunderstood. She will be recognized as pushing, determined, independent, able to take care of herself alone and single-handed, wherever she may be.

Mayor Cleveland of Jersey City, January 25, 1890, as Nellie Bly arrived at her final stop on her journey to travel the world in less than 80 days.

Big Picture: On this day 134 years ago, journalist Nellie Bly returned home after circumnavigating the globe, accomplishing her goal *with* one navy blue dress and *without* a chaperone – igniting headlines around the world.

Who Is Nellie Bly? Born Elizabeth Cochrane, Nellie was a trailblazing female journalist who made a name for herself as a fearless reporter covering those forgotten: the poor and mentally ill. Her big break came after she pretended to be insane so she could be committed to a notorious asylum – Blackwell’s Island. She spent ten days inside the institution and revealed its abusive conditions.

January 25, 1890: On assignment, Nellie reported on whether one could indeed travel “Around the World in Eighty Days” (a famous fiction book). She traveled alone, wearing a single navy dress, carrying a small bag, and using every form of transport available: ship, train, rickshaw, horse, etc. Her circumnavigation of the globe began on November 14, 1889, and concluded on January 25, 1890 – in 72 days and 6 hours.

Nellie completed this adventure only months before her 26th birthday. Following her return, she published a book in which she writes of her adventure: “I only remember my trip across the continent as one maze of happy greetings, happy wishes, congratulating telegrams, fruit, flowers, loud cheers, wild hurrahs, rapid hand-shaking and a beautiful car filled with fragrant flowers attached to a swift engine that was tearing like mad through flower-dotted valley and over snow-tipped mountain, on–on–on! It was glorious!”

Read More: Nellie Bly: Around the World (Heinz History Center)

Nellie Bly (National Women’s History Museum)

Nellie Bly: The Journalist Who Traveled Around the World in 72 Days (The Collector)

by Leah Grainery, based in Texas