On the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, famed 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly receives a statue honoring her legacy in Pittsburgh International Airport. Her likeness will appear alongside the airport’s two other statues, one honoring the first president of the United States George Washington, the other Steelers former running back Franco Harris.
Elizabeth Cochran Seaman assumed the pen name Nellie Bly to obscure her gender. It allowed her to begin writing in her teens for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, presently known as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During her tenure there, she traveled to Mexico to report on their politics. While there, she drew ire from its tyrannical regime for her honest reporting.
Eventually, she left the Dispatch over frustrations of entertainment assignments. She moved to New York and began writing for the New York World. Under that publication, she published her most famous piece. After going undercover inside a women’s mental institution, she collected a damning report recounting abuse and neglect.
Its publication resulted in reforms at the institution.
Nellie Bly: Reporter, Traveler
However, history also remembers Nellie Bly for a daring journey around the world. Mirroring the story of Jules Vern’s Around the World in 80 Days, Nellie Bly set off to travel the full circumference of Earth. She managed the feat in 72 days. Along the way, she also met Jules Vern in France before proceeding through the rest of Europe and onto Asia.
Later in her career, she covered the early momentum of the women’s suffrage movement. She also predicted 1920 as the date it would attain its goal.
Bly accomplished all this before a relatively early death at 57. She came down with pneumonia and passed away at St. Mark’s Hospital in New York City.
Her statue in Pittsburgh International will likely appear later this month.