As the title implies, this biography focuses largely on reporter Nellie Bly’s 10 grim days in a New York City insane asylum for women in 1887, which influenced public opinion and gained her instant celebrity.
Bly’s famous 1889 trip around the world, inspired by the Jules Verne novel and followed closely by thousands of newspaper readers, is covered in less detail but with plenty of pizzazz. The brisk narrative draws from Bly’s own writings and from biographies, skillfully incorporating quotations, dialogue, and well-chosen facts. The overall tone is admiring, but the balanced text also acknowledges criticism of her kind of “stunt” reporting and touches briefly on problems in her personal life. While Bly’s work life is presented chronologically, her earlier years are spread out in a disjointed manner in sidebars throughout the book. These and other double-page sidebars are embedded in the middles of chapters, often disrupting the smooth flow of the story. Plentiful black-and-white photographs, cartoons, newspaper pages, and artifacts expand the sense of time and place. Noyes sets Bly’s life and career in context, especially with regard to limitations on women and condescending attitudes toward their abilities.
A lively biography that reflects the spirit of the intrepid reporter. (author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 11-14)