Skip to:Content
Cover image for Nellie Bly : daredevil, reporter, feminist
Nellie Bly : daredevil, reporter, feminist
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Books, c1994.
Physical Description:
631 p. : illustrations.
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Personal Subject:


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 BLY 0 1

On Order



Now in paperback--the acclaimed biography of Nellie Bly, the "thrilling account of a trailblazer" (Pat Morrison, Los Angeles Times Book Review). "Kroeger's biography of Nellie Bly moves at almost as fast a pace as did Bly's remarkable life."--Mindy Spatt, San Francisco Chronicle. Photos & illustrations. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is the definitive work on the reporter who traveled around the world in 72 days in 1889-1890 and was one of the pioneer women journalists. Nellie Bly started her career in Pittsburgh, at age 21, in 1885. She then moved to New York City in 1887 and wrote for the World until 1895, with one three-year hiatus. In 1895 she married a wealthy 70-year-old entrepreneur, Robert Seaman, and proved herself an astute business executive--except that she trusted her financial associates, who embezzled more than a million dollars and bankrupted her firm, which manufactured steel barrels. She returned to journalism in 1912 and covered WW I on the Eastern front from 1914 until 1919 as the only American woman reporter. Back in Manhattan she worked at the Evening Journal as a sort of Miss Lonelyhearts and amateur social worker until her death in 1922. Kroeger, a former reporter and editor for UPI, has done a prodigious amount of research for this compelling, if somewhat overlong biography. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

A meticulously researched, consistently entertaining biography of the legendary turn-of-the-century journalist whose true adventures far outstripped the boundaries of myth. For this first full-scale treatment of Bly, former United Press International reporter Kroeger reaches through a web of half- truths (many courtesy of the subject herself) and scanty facts to uncover the complex path of ``a life not so much lived as waged.'' Born near Pittsburgh in 1864, Elizabeth Jane Cochran began her career with an extraordinary stroke of luck--the editor of The Pittsburgh Dispatch, fascinated by her spirited letter rebuking a columnist who urged women to stay at home, gave the untrained 20- year-old a position and, in the fashion of the day, a catchy life- long pseudonym. But it was her own initiative that secured lasting fame. Deciding to scale the walls of newspaper capital New York, with her sights set on Joseph Pulitzer's splashy The World, Bly quickly became a leading investigative reporter in a business still largely closed to women. National celebrity came with an effort to better Jules Verne's fictional Phileas Fogg by going around the world in 75 days. Her relentlessly self-referential but charming and uninhibited style made Bly, in Kroeger's estimation, perhaps the first ``gonzo'' journalist. Reborn as an enlightened manufacturer after a curious elopement with a millionaire industrialist 40 years her senior, Bly mastered technology sufficiently to pick up 25 patents in her own name. Financial ruin drew the now-widowed Bly to Austria to report from the front lines of WW I, and a final foray into New York journalism, just prior to her death at 57, cast Bly as a passionate advocate for downtrodden women and children. While skillfully conveying the outlines of an astounding life, Kroeger, hampered by a lack of intimate detail, never manages to make Bly a fully three-dimensional character- -although, as she amply demonstrates, four or five dimensions would seem more appropriate. Inspiring reading for those searching out a feminist role model--or just a breathless ride through an incredible life. (16 pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Booklist Review

Reporter and editor Kroeger was amazed to discover that not a single comprehensive biography had ever been written about the famous "girl" reporter Nellie Bly (1864-1922). Bly was renowned for her pluck and daring, her humanitarianism, and her struggles as one of the first woman industrialists. Unfortunately, Bly kept no journals and wrote few letters, but Kroeger has managed to fashion a compelling and detailed portrait based on Bly's newspaper work and the astonishing number of court documents her litigious activities generated. Bly, who was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, vowed early on to be self-sufficient, but her entry into journalism was pure serendipity. She had written a scathing letter to the editor after reading a rabidly misogynist column in a Pittsburgh paper. Her verve caught the editor's attention, and soon "Nellie Bly" was front-page copy as she became one of the first "stunt" reporters to go under cover for a story when she feigned insanity and infiltrated a state-run asylum. Her next escapade was to make it around the world in less time than the hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Over the years, her subjects veered from the fluff of the "woman's page" to genuine news, such as labor strikes and World War I. Kroeger admits that Bly wasn't much of a writer, but she was fearless and resilient and possessed an instinct for drama and an unerring sense of justice. Kudos to Kroeger for resurrecting the irrepressible Bly and adding a star to the bright firmament of nineteenth-century American women. ~--Donna Seaman

Choice Review

This much-needed book offers a detailed description of the life of the most famous woman reporter of her era. Bly triumphed over a childhood that ranged from times of plenty to destitution. An independent spirit whose persona fit the rough-and-tumble world of journalism, she worked first for the Pittsburgh Dispatch but moved in 1887 to New York newspapers. Her most famous work appeared in Pulitzer's World. Her specialty was what journalism historians call "stunt journalism," reports of gimmicky expeditions that garner great readership. (Her most famous stunt was circling the earth in a trifle over 72 days--to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg's 80 days. She also was famous for her description of life in an insane asylum.) Later in life, she became a WW I reporter and took up the plight of orphans and unwed mothers. Abounding with examples of her stories and her personal correspondence, the book amply demonstrates Bly's development as a professional reporter. The author offers little that is critical of this historic personality. Detail is enormous, however, and although the book is not written in a scholarly style, its documentation is superb, its illustrations useful and elucidating. General readers and upper-division undergraduates. R. Halverson; Arizona State University

Library Journal Review

Nellie Bly (1864-1922) perfected the art of ``stunt'' journalism in the late 1800s, paving the way for both women journalists and the development of investigative reporting. For this major new biography, Kroeger used her own investigative journalism skills to uncover a wide range of previously unknown materials relating to Bly's life. Kroeger argues that the lack of accessible documents has contributed to scholarly neglect and misinformation about Bly, a condition she has remedied in this book. Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, began her journalism career in Pittsburgh, moving to New York in 1887. For her first article in Joseph Pulitzer's The New York World , she feigned insanity, getting herself committed to the Women's Lunatic Asylum. Her expose rocked the city, led to reforms, and made Bly famous. Kroeger goes beyond the well-known stories about Bly, documenting her reporting career and her life as an industrialist. This is a remarkable biography of an extraordinary woman that should be added to most library collections.-- Judy Solberg, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Go to:Top of Page