November 14, 1889: Nellie Bly sets sail on what will become a record-breaking circumnavigation of the globe.
American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, who worked as a journalist under the pen name “Nellie Bly”, first made a name for herself when she feigned insanity and went undercover in an asylum, where she experienced the appalling conditions of the institution firsthand. After leaving the asylum, she reported on her experiences in an exposé that resulted in a grand jury investigation of the facilities. At age 21, she travelled to Mexico as a foreign correspondent.
In 1888, the intrepid reporter decided that she would emulate the protagonist of Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days and circumnavigate the globe in eighty days or less. The newspaper that sent her on the trip, the New York World, had been reluctant to send her at first, mostly on the basis of her gender; however, the World soon proclaimed her to be “a female Phileas Fogg" and launched a dramatic publicity stunt to chronicle her journey around the world. On November 14, she set sail on a steamboat, beginning a journey that would cover nearly 25,000 miles. Carrying only minimal baggage, she travelled across continents, stopping in Amiens to meet the inspiration of her trip in France, Jules Verne. Bly travelled by railroad, steamship, rickshaw, and whatever other means of transport she could, unchaperoned for most of the trip, and arrived in New York after seventy-two days of travel, a world record.
Unbeknownst to her (until halfway through the trip), Bly had been competing with another woman - Elizabeth Bisland - to break the record. Although she arrived after Bly, Bisland also circumnavigated the globe in under eighty days.