Nellie Bly was one of the most rousing characters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the 1880s, she pioneered the development of "detective" or "stunt" journalism, the acknowledged forerunner of full-scale investigative reporting.
While she was still in her early twenties, the example of her fearless success helped open the profession to coming generations of women journalists clamoring to write hard news.
|Author Brooke Kroeger|
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Brooke Kroeger is an associate professor of journalism at New York University. At Newsday, she served as UN correspondent and as a deputy metropolitan editor. This followed an 8-year stint overseas, including Tel Aviv, Brussels and London, during the Scripps Howard days of United Press International. She servd as the agency's chief editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Ms. Kroeger started with the wire service in its Chicago bureau, writing about everything from local and state politics to sports.
Her freelanced work has appeared in numerous women's magazines as well as in The New York Times, Newsday, and The Los Angeles Times.
She is also the author of FANNIE: The Talent for Success of Writer Fannie Hurst (1999) and PASSING: When People Can't Be Who They Are (2003).
Bly performed feats for the record books. She feigned insanity and engineered her own commitment to a mental asylum, then exposed its horrid conditions. She circled the globe faster than any living or fictional soul.
She designed, manufactured, and marketed the first successful steel barrel produced in the United States. She owned and operated factories as a model of social welfare for her 1,500 employees.
She was the first woman to report from the Eastern Front in World War I. She journeyed to Paris to argue the case of a defeated nation. She wrote a widely read advice column while devoting herself to the plight of the unfortunate, most notably unwed and indigent mothers and their offspring.
Bly's life -- 1864 to 1922 -- spanned Reconstruction, the Victorian and Progressive eras, the Great War and its aftermath. She grew up without privilege or higher education, knowing that her greatest asset was the force of her own will.
Bly executed the extraordinary as a matter of routine. Even well into middle age, she saw herself as Miss Push-and-Get-There, the living example of what, in her time, was "That New American Girl."
To admirers, she was Will Indomitable, the Best Reporter in America, the Personification of Pluck. Amazing was the adjective that always came to mind. As the most famous woman journalist of her day, as an early woman industrialist, as a humanitarian, even as a beleaguered litigant, Bly kept the same formula for success: Determine Right. Decide Fast. Apply Energy. Act with Conviction. Fight to the Finish. Accept the Consequences. Move on. . . .