The True Story Of The Woman Who Faked Insanity To Go Undercover In An Asylum

History is full of fierce women who go against the status quo to break the glass ceiling. Queens like Cleopatra, heroines like Joan of Arc, and adventurers like Amelia Earhart have all inspired generations of women. Often overlooked though is the life of journalistic trailblazer Nellie Bly.

If you haven’t heard of Nellie Bly then you’ve been seriously missing out. Bly is regarded as the world’s first female investigative journalist. She traveled around the world in 72 days and even faked her way into an insane asylum as an expose—all while being a ‘proper’ 1880s lady. Read on and learn about how she risked her life to go undercover and expose conditions in New York’s insane asylum.

Nellie Came Out Swinging With Her First Article

nellie bly portait 1880
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Nellie was just a teenager when she began her career in journalism. She wrote a scathing criticism to the Pittsburgh Dispatch in response to a column that claimed women were only good for birthing children and cleaning the house. The editor at the time was so impressed with the anonymous writer that he ran an advertisement asking them to identify themselves.

Nellie came forward and the editor offered her the opportunity to write a column. Her first published article didn’t hold back, and Nellie argued for reforming divorce laws to give women greater rights.