Nellie Bly

First Woman Reporter

The incomparable Nellie Bly was a stunt reporter for The New York World magazine from the late 1890's through the early 1900's. Her provocative reporting style changed the face of women in journalism forever.

Now audiences everywhere have a chance to meet the famous daredevil reporter from 1890 who:

How is is possible we are meeting the remarkable Nellie Bly face-to-face? Simply because she has traveled over a hundred years through time to get our story.

Join in the fun as Anne Pasquale portrays this dynamic nineteenth-century woman.

Curriculum/Program Objectives

  1. To have children experience a hands-on encounter with turn-of-the-century America by recreating the major events in the life of one of its most heroic journalists.
  2. To make children aware of the important differences between everyday life of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  3. To highlight the role of women in society.
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Vocabulary/People/Terms

ANTHONY, SUSAN B.
The subject of one of Ms. Bly's character profiles for The World. Ms. Anthony was at the time a former abolitionist who had become one of the leading figures in the women's suffrage movement.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 72 DAYS
Nellie Bly's book that records her acclaimed journalistic stunt of traveling around the world in a mere 72 days. This was achieved during a time when flying machines were pure fiction. She broke every record!
BLACKWELL'S ISLAND
This location, presently referred to as Roosevelt Island, was the site for several asylums for the insane. One of these institutions became the subject of Ms. Bly's exposť, Ten Days in the Madhouse.
BOX FACTORIES
Workplaces that employed numerous immigrant and unskilled women, offered inadequate working conditions, and used child labor. Ms. Bly investigated these establishments for an exposť published in the Pittsburgh Dispatch. These articles earned her the title, "Guardian of the Working Girl."
COCHRAN, ELIZABETH
Nellie Bly's birth name prior to her working for the Pittsburgh Dispatch. It was George Madden who renamed Elizabeth "Nellie," taking the name from a popular Stephen Foster tune.
CORSET
A shaped, close-fitting undergarment worn by women of the nineteenth century.
ELLIS ISLAND
The site of a former naval arsenal that became an immigrant reception center. It is located at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.
SIX MONTHS IN MEXICO
The book that recorded Ms. Bly's journey to the Latin land. This work established her as one of our first female correspondents.
STUNT REPORTER
A group of reporters during the 1800's who, in order to attract attention for their particular article, would obtain their story by extreme means. For example, to gather material for a story about prisons, they would have themselves arrested..
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Questions for Discussion and Classroom Activities

  1. Nellie Bly was a stunt reporter. This meant that, in order to gain her stories, she would actually take on the life of her subject. Ask the students to engage in some stunt reporting of their own. Have them observe each other or a person they very much admire or wish to know more about. Then have them mimic that person in lifestyle and/or dress. Then have them write a story from their new perspective. Here are some possible headlines: "Life at My Best Friend's House," or "Kindergarten: The Real Story." For more advanced students, some topics might include: "A Day in the Life of a Surgeon," or "What It's Like to Be Handicapped."
  2. Women have come a long way since Nellie's time. They have the right to vote, they may own property, they can even run for public office. Name some of the other liberties that women of our century experience in contrast to those of the past in dress, occupation, etc.
  3. Have the students look around the room. How many everyday objects and amenities would have been part of Nellie's world? How many would have been different?
  4. Have the students conduct an entire class period as if they were living in the nineteenth century. What would be done differently? What would be the same?
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Bibliography

Bly, Nellie. Around The World In 72 Days, New York: Pictoral Weekly, 1890.
Bly, Nellie. Six Months In Mexico, New York: John W. Lovell, 1886.
Bly, Nellie. Ten Days In The Madhouse, New York: Norman L. Munro, 1887.
Cohn, Amy L. From Sea To Shining Sea, New York: Scholastic Inc., 1993.
Daniels, Roger. Coming To America, New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Ehrilich, Elizabeth. Nellie Bly, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989
Kroeger, Brooke. Nellie Bly, New York: Times Books, 1994.
Margetson, Stella. Leisure & Pleasure In The 19th Century, New York: Coward McCann, Inc., 1969.
Nobie, Iris. Nellie Bly: First Woman Reporter, Detroit: Messner, 1956.
Rappaport, Doreen. American Women: Their Lives In Their Words, New York: Harper Trophy, 1992.
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What they say about...Nellie Bly

"The students were very much engaged. This performance brought to light a moment in American history that many of the children were unfamiliar with." - Katherine Flack, Director of Junior Education Program, Boys Harbor

"I highly recommend Anne. She is professional, pleasant to work with, and a joy to watch. You will not be disappointed." - Mary Telford Williams, Grace Church School

"We really felt we had travelled back in time! It was amazing how much you packed into your performance - history, humor, songs, audience participation, and a whole lot of fun. Your way with the children was delightful." - Meg Stackpole, Assistant Children's Librarian, The Rye Free Reading Room

"The children truly enjoyed the show and related well to the immigrant stories she tells. We would love to see more of Anne's work in the future." - Mindee Barham, I Have a Dream Program

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Artists' Information

Anne PasqualeAnne Pasquale (actress & playwright) is presently a member of The Actors Studio. She trained at LAMDA and the New York School of the Arts. She has appeared on TV in: As The World Turns and Search for Tomorrow. In Great Britain she performed a range of roles from Viola in Twelfth Night to Sarah Goddard, a turn of the century Rhode Island feminist. Some of her New York stage credits include: The New Dramatist's Three Sisters, Lincoln Center’s A View from the Bridge, Theatre of the Open Eye’s Birdbath, The 78th Street Theatre Lab’s Ruffian on the Stair, and Paradise Lost at The Actors Studio. In addition, Ms. Pasquale creates and tours her repertoire of Living History Programs for audiences of all ages in venues along the East Coast. Recent appearances include: Nellie at The NHHC Chautauqua, Liberty Belles at The Yale University Museum and Deborah Sampson at The John Jay Homestead.
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