Nelly Bly was a ground-breaking journalist who in 1889 made the round-the-world journey described in the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days — only she bested the fictional record. (She was also famous for impersonating a patient in order to write an insider account of flaws in the mental health care system of her day.)
On Nov. 14, 1889, Bly waved goodbye to family and friends from the New Jersey Hoboken Pier aboard the Augusta Victoria steamer. Traveling by steamships and trains, her journey sent her around the world from America to England, France, Italy, Egypt, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, and back to a port in San Francisco. She then traveled by train across the U.S., with four major stops including Harrisburg, Pa., before arriving back in New Jersey on Jan. 25, 1890.
In total, Bly traveled for 72 days, beating the record of Phileas Fogg as well as a surprise competitor, The Cosmopolitan writer Elizabeth Bisland, who attempted to make the same journey going in the opposite direction. But Bly won and became a world celebrity. The World’s circulation soared, and fame for Bly followed in the form of paid speaking engagements and even a “Round the World with Nellie Bly” board game.
Like other ventures, Bly compiled her articles into the book, “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days,” published in 1890 by The Pictorial Weeklies Company.2 Fame followed, and Nellie Bly was a celebrity reporter known all over the world. But when her editors at The World did not give her a raise or even a bonus for her work after she returned, she up and quit. At the time, Bly was 26 years old, single, and one of the most famous women in the world.