• It’s the birthdate of James Flora (1914–1998) The Day the Cow Sneezed.
  • It’s also the birthdate of Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, A Room of One's Own. And it’s A Room of One's Own Day. Read My Very Own Room/Mi Propio Cuartito by Amada Irma PĂ©rez, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez.
  • In 1858 “The Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn becomes a popular wedding recessional after it is played on this day at the marriage of Queen Victoria's daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia. Read Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen, and Alligator Wedding by Nancy Jewell, illustrated by J. Rutland.

On January 25, 1890, stunt newspaper reporter Nellie Bly arrived in New Jersey, after managing to travel around the world in 72 days. She had set out to beat the record of Jules Verne’s imaginary hero, Phineas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days. This feat was only one of Bly’s accomplishments. In Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter, Bonnie Christensen creates an exciting portrait of the journalist who at the age of twenty-five captured the world’s fancy.

Christensen is particularly good at creating context for Nellie Bly in just a few sentences. “In an age when women were not entitled to vote, when few women could attend college, and when fewer held jobs, Nellie Bly dared to defy convention.” At sixteen, Nellie began to search for work—and spent five years doing so. But a letter to the editor of the Pittsburg Dispatch landed her a spot on the paper. There she began a series of on-the-scene exposes; at one point she had to flee Mexico before the Mexican government arrested her.

When she joined the staff of the New York World, she really began to make waves. The newspaper liked to place undercover, or as they were called “stunt,” reporters in different places. In Bly’s case, she managed to get herself committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum—where she observed conditions and wrote about life inside the mad house. Clearly, she would go the extra mile to get a good story.

Soon she came up with the idea of a round the world trip designed to imitate Verne’s story. In a mere two days Bly prepared a wardrobe and set out from Hoboken, New Jersey, on the Augusta Victoria. Bonnie Christensen describes the journey, the places, and some of the sights that Bly saw. As both writer and illustrator Bonnie records fascinating details of Bly’s trip and traces her route on a world map, along with some of the scenes that Bly witnessed.

After Bly reached San Francisco, she received aid from her employer, who sent a special train to make the rest of the trip. Along the way, Americans greeted Nellie with fanfare—fireworks, telegrams, fruit, and candy. Arriving on time in the Jersey City train station, Bly demonstrated that Jules Verne had been right—and that a real woman could do things better than his male protagonist.

The great historian David McCullough once told me that American history was filled with stories that young people should know about, such as the exploits of Nellie Bly. Fortunately, in 2003 Bonnie Christensen made her story accessible to young readers ages six to ten. In an era when women can run for president, it is still good to remind young readers what their struggle has been along the way.

Here’s a page from Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter:

Originally posted January 25, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, History, Transportation, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Daring Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter
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  1. Jennifer Sauter-Price says:

    My girls (5 and 7 years old) and I loved this book. As a mom, I’m always looking for biographies of strong, adventurous, courageous women to serve as role models for my daughters. My mom did the same thing with me, introducing the stories of Jane Addams, Abigail Adams, Helen Keller to name a few. Our family though does want to send shout out to Megan McDonald who introduced Nellie Bly in Judy Moody Around the World in 8 1/2 Days, which made my girls request a search for more books about Nellie Bly, leading us to Bonnie Christensen’s book.

  2. Allison Cole says:

    I am so thrilled to learn about this book! I will definitely be picking up a copy for my eight-year-old niece (and I think her five-year-old brother would like to learn about Nellie, as well). I totally agree about the need to educate kids about the trajectory of women in the workforce (and elsewhere), though I do think that Nellie would be just as inspirational figure if she were writing today. Talk about hard-hitting journalism!

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