Elizabeth Jane Cochran was born in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1864. She had to leave College after one term because of lack of funds. A newspaper column entitled ‘What Girls Are Good For’ reported that girls were principally for birthing children and keeping house. This prompted Elizabeth to write a response:

“Instead of gathering up the “real smart young men” gather up the real smart girls, pull them out of the mire, give them a shove up the ladder of life, and be amply repaid both by their success and unforgetfulness [sic] of those that held out the helping hand”.

The editor was so impressed by the letter that he hired Elizabeth. She changed her by-line to Nellie Bly and became a famous reporter. She managed to get herself declared insane and spent 10 days in an asylum, afterwards writing a book about the deplorable conditions, which led to reforms. Nellie then tried to beat the fictional ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ for the first time. All Nellie took with her was the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She arrived back in New York in January 1890, 72 days later.

Picture: Nellie Bly (Pseudonym of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman). United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.