Elizabeth Jane Cochrane "Nellie Bly"


Elizabeth Jane Cochrane "Nellie Bly"




Investigative report who revolutionized journalism


Amy French


Image: H.J. Myers, Library of Congress

Birth Date



Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania, USA

Death Date



Journalist, industrialist

Biographical Text

Nellie Bly was the penname of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. As a teenager, Cochrane wrote a letter to the editor of the local Pittsburgh paper to refute a misogynistic article that the paper had printed. The editor was impressed with her writing and offered her a job. Her first story focused on the plight of working women. Eventually, Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World newspaper heard of her writing and offered her a position at this paper. Cochrane faked insanity in front of a judge and went undercover to expose the real story of how patients at asylums were treated.  Her investigate journalistic style was original for the time. After Jules Verne published Around the World in 80 Days, Cochrane left on a trip and did it in 72—just to prove that it could be done. She investigated prison conditions and her writing was a boon to social reformers. After marriage in 1895, she left writing for some time. It was thought unseemly for married women of a certain status to work outside the home. Her  husband died in 1904 and Cochrane became one of the leading female industrialists of the time. She went back to writing and covered the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913. She then reported from the Eastern European front in World War I. She died in 1922.

"I always had a desire to know asylum life more thoroughly-a desire to be convinced that the most helpless of God's creatures, the insane, were cared for kindly and properly."--Nellie Bly

"People of the world can never imagine the length of days to those in asylums. They seemed neverending, and we welcomed any event that might give us something to think about as well as talk of." --Nellie Bly

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/madhouse/madhouse.html


Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. (New York: Times Books, 1994).

Nellie Bly--a Resource Website: http://www.nellieblyonline.com/

National Women's History Museum: http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/youngandbrave/bly.html

Biography.com website on Nellie Bly: http://www.biography.com/people/nellie-bly-9216680#synopsis


Date Added
June 12, 2014
Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences
Item Type
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Amy French, “Elizabeth Jane Cochrane "Nellie Bly",” Women Who Dared, accessed June 22, 2024, https://womenwhodared.omeka.net/items/show/44.