To make a name for herself as a journalist, Nellie Bly never passed down an opportunity for a story.
(Check out Part I of Nellie’s story here!)
Bly was not done making news. In 1888, she persuaded her editor at New York World that she would take a trip around the world, a la Around the World in Eighty Days. A year later she boarded a steamer called the Augusta Victoria to begin her record-breaking journey.
The fictional Phileas Fogg as written by Jules Verne traversed the world in 80 days. Even though his record only existed in stories, it stood as a record worth beating.
But Bly had competition. The newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to race around the world in the opposite direction. The World sponsored a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” for the exact second that Bly would return from her trip.
Bly used a number of transportation methods in her travels, including steamships, railroads, horses, rickshaws and more. In China Bly visited a leper colony and also bought a monkey in Singapore. She met Jules Verne himself in France. As she traveled she sent short reports of her positions.
Bly traveled mostly unchaperoned, a bold move for a woman of her time.
Bly had to take a slower ship than intended on the last leg of the trip, but the owner of the World hired a private train to rush her back.
After a journey of 72 days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds, Bly returned to New York. She set the world record for the fastest trip around the world.
Bisland, the reporter sent to race her, arrived in New York four and a half days later; she had missed a connection and had to finish her journey on a slower ship.
A few months later, a man named George Francis Train beat her record with a trip in 67 days.
Nellie Bly had established herself as an all-star reporter, and her name was later recognized in various pop culture and other references. The New York Press Club, for instance, gives an annual “Nellie Bly Club Reporter” journalism award to the best new journalists in the field.
When Bly passed away in 1922, she had an unmarked grave in New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery until the New York Press Club funded a gravestone with her name in 1978.