Reporter, New York World
The best undercover reporter there ever
was. And, through the fame her stories brought her, she taught the public,
and editors, that women could report just as well –
and often better – than men.
Bly was born in 1864 and got her break
in this utterly male-dominated age by submitting an article anonymously.
Its editor had the sense to hire her when she presented herself at the
office. Determinied to make an impact when offered a chance by a New York
paper, she volunteered to feign madness and get herself committed to the
notorious Blackwell’s Island asylum so she could report on the atrocious
cruelty and conditions there. She did so, and emerged to write one of the
city’s most famous exposes, charting the beatings, putrid food,
incompetence of the doctors, neglect of basic fire precations and much
A succession of undercover stories
followed, and then, in 1889, she set out on an extraordinary assignment:
to beat the target set in Jules Verne’s novel –
travelling round the world in 80 days. Despite some close calls, she did
it and, on her return, became a national celebrity. Then, at the age of
30, she suddenly married an industrialist more than twice her age. After
his death, turned herself into one of America’s most successful
entrepreneurs – only to see the
enterprises she had built up destroyed by her finance director’s
So back, at the age of 48, she went to
reporting, covering the Great War and later running a campaigning column.
When she died, at the age of 57, the US’s leading editor, Arthur
Brisbane, called her simply “the best reporter in America”.