On November 14, 1889, journalist Nellie Bly set off to recreate the circumnavigation journey of Jules Verne’s classic novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. She was a journalist for the New York World and had pitched the idea of recreating Phileas Fogg’s journey from Around the World in Eighty Days to her boss, newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer.
I read an interesting article on Grantland today – 72 Days, Six Hours, and 11 Minutes: How a Pioneering Journalist Won a Race Around the World in 1889 which was a fascinating read about her trip. Here’s the account of the newspaper’s business manager originally shooting down her idea
“It is impossible for you to do it,” he told her. “You are a woman and would need a protector.” Even if she could travel alone, he said, she’d want to take too much baggage. “There is no use talking about it,” he insisted. “No one but a man could do this.”
“Very well,” she said. “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”
Another interesting subplot was that another magazine called Cosmopolitan sent its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, in the opposite direction to try to beat Bly’s time around the globe. You can imagine that the aspect of a race might have sold some newspapers back 125 years ago!
There actually was quite a bit of a competition between the World and Cosmopolitan about whose reporter would get back first. There were even reports of shenanigans and sabotage by the different newspapers to make sure their reporter got back first!
SPOILER ALERT: Nellie made it :-D.