Nellie Bly and Other Stunt Girls (and Boys) of the Late 1880s-Early 1900s

Nellie Bly's article "Inside the Madhouse," written for The New York World in 1887.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Newspaper, Book

"With the Prison Matrons" - Nellie Bly - New York World

They Tell Nellie Bly That Women Never Reform


"'Seventeen years is a long time for an innocent woman to be in prison.' I answered the speaker with a sympathetic smile. I though, as I glanced at the kindly face and the neatly dressed hair, which Time has touched with frosty fingers what love of humanity, what patience she must possess to spend seventeen years in unceasing labor for the ill-fated outcast world. . ."

"Nellie Bly's 700 Doctors" - Nellie Bly - New York World

A Perfect Army of Wiseacres Come to Her Relief; Queer Ways to Cure That Headache; Her Experience with the Seven Distinguished New York Physicians Interested Everybody All Over the Country-Medicine Enough Received to Stock a Drug Store


"I am still ill. Two weeks ago I had seven physicians who charged large fees. Today I have 700 physicians who diagnose my case and prescribe without charge. . ."

"Nellie Bly at West Point" - Nellie Bly - New York World

She Inspects the Tightly Laced Young Cadets at Their Military Maneuvers


"Ah! It's very nice to be a cadet, but it's much nicer to be a cadet's 'cousin.' The West Point cadets and their 'cousins,' with an occasional sprinkling of sisters and mothers had a lovely time last week. I was at the West Point Hotel for a day or so enjoying the closing exercises of our historic military school and the way happiness was booming was enough to coax the sugar-water out of the maple trees that it might mingle with the sweetness which prevailed everywhere. . ."

"In a Poor Babies' Hospital" - Unsigned - New York World

Clean Little Cot Beds and Motherly Nurses for the Children


"This little scene occurred in the ante-room of the Post-Graduate Hospital in East Twentieth street, anf two weeks later the reporter visited the hospital on a reception day—a babies' reception day—and the hospital wore quite a holiday air."

"Another Wicked Swindle" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Exposes a Fraud in Worthless Washing Machines


"Swindlers and swindled! Divide the population of America into two parts and you have two classes- the swindlers and the swindled, and the census of one will equal that of the other every time. . ."

"A Female Usurer's Trick" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Exposes One of the Secrets of a Diamond Shop; Loaning Money Without a License to Actresses and Rich Women


"Everybody who strolls up the west side of Broadway to the theaters knows the brightly lighted windows of Mrs. Theresa Lynch, with the strings of diamonds sparkling under the electric lights. Nobody knows exactly just what Mrs. Lynch does in her little back office except those who have her confidence. . ."

"Nellie Bly on the Wing" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Some Things She Saw, Heard and Experienced While Traveling; Saidee Polk Fall's Happy Life at the Famous Polk Homestead-A Bit of Amele Riven's Early History-Peet Riley's Wisdom-Experience with a Southern Quarantine Officer-An Indignant Traveller.


"Miss Saidee Polk Fall is the belle of Nashville, Tennessee. Her mother was adopted and educated by Mrs. James Knox Polk, whose niece she is. After the death of President Polk Mrs. Fall, then a little black-eyed girl, was the only companion the sorrowing widow had to share her lonely home. . ."

"The Infamy of the Park" - Nellie Bly -New York World


"Many complaints have come, from time to time, to THE WORLD touching park policemen. Women complain that they dare not go to the Park alone because of the familiar and offensive manner of these officers—those paid guardians of property and quietness."

"Why Don't Women Reform?" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Asks This Question of Police Court Prisoners; She Spends a Day at Jefferson Market Court and Jail


"The courtroom was dark and and forbidding. On an elevated platform, inclosed by a high board partition, sat Judge Ford, a pleasant silver-haired man, who seemed to judge rightly the accused brought before him."

Comment: "Comment at Albany" - Unsigned - New York World

Surprise That Even a Women Could Trick the Lobby King


"Even Hogs Fare Better" - Unsigned - New York World

How the New York Central Transports Emigrant Passengers; What a "World" Reporter Saw While Disguised as a Swede; On the Way to Castle Garden - Challenged by the Watch - An "Emigrant" Ticket to Buffalo - The Passenger Pool Octopus - Sale of Ticket and Division of Spoils - Evasion of the Interstate Commerce Laws - Families Separated by Pool Agents - Scenes in Old Citadel - The Test of a Disguise - A Clever Stratagem - On the Barge - Packed in Cars in a Freight Shed - Touching Sights on an Immigrant Train - The Missing Passenger at Debbs Ferry


". . .As the immigrants crowded into the two cars guarded by the gentlemen of the brogue and him of the club. they were followed by a railroad hand with a lantern, who kept yelling 'Two in a seat! Two in a seat!' and seeing that The World reporter did not sit down quite as quickly as he would have liked to have him, he grabbed him by the shoulder and yelled in his ear: 'Why in h--- don't you sit down there where i put you. . .?'"

"Skilful Cigarette Girls" - Fannie B. Merrill - New York World

Very Little Romance and Much Work the Rule Among Them


"There is no more unimportant looking object than a paper cigarette. Even when it borrows grace from the browned figures and ruby lips of a daring girl it is association that makes it important and not divine right. . ."

"'Nellie Brown's' Story" - Unsigned - New York World

The Widespread Interest Caused by "The World's" Publication; Her Sad Experience the Talk of the Town; Its Truthfulness Acknowledged at Bellevue; Nurses and Doctors Admit They Were Deceived; Warden O'Rourke's Sagacity; The Ambulance Surgeon Explains


"The ten-column story of Nellie Brown's experience as an amateur insanity ward published in THE WORLD yesterday was the talk of all classes and created an immense sensation everywhere. . . . ."

"The Nellie Brown Mystery" - Unsigned - New York World

Her Story as Told from Day to Day by the City Newspapers; From the Sun, Sunday, Sept 25, WHO IS THIS INSANE GIRL? She Is Pretty, Well Dressed and Speaks Spanish; She Wandered Into Matron Stenard's Home for Women and Asked for a Pistol to Protect Herself; Is Her Name Marina?


"A modest, comely well-dressed girl of nineteen who gave her name as Nellie Brown, was committed by Justice Duffy at Essex Market yesterday for examination as to her sanity. The circumstances surrounding her were such as to indicate that possibly she might be the heroine of an interesting story . . . ."

Followup-"The Lobby King's Bluff" - Unsigned - New York World

"Ed" Phelps's Absurd Explanations About That Agreement to Bribe; He Was Trying to Catch 'Nellie Bly' All the Time; Why, Oh! Why, Then, Did He Give Written Memoranda and Hang About the St. James Hotel?; Talk of a Legislative Investigation; Why Not a Grand Jury Indictment In This County? Comments in This City and Albany


I-"The King of the Lobby" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Edward R. Phelps Caught in a Neatly Laid Trap; Nellie Bly's Interesting Experience in Albany; How the Lobby King Contracts to Kill Bills for Cash; Dealing with Legislators as with Purchasable Chattels; Phelps Furnishes 'The World' with a List of Assembly Commissioners Who Are Bribable; His Agreement to Kill Assembly Bill No. 191 for $5,000; Afterwards Concludes to Take Less; The Check to Be Made Out to His Side Partner, J.W. Chesbrough; "I Have Control of the House and Can Pass or Kill Any Bill"; A Revelation of Baseness that Should Fill the State with Indignation; The Watch Here


"I was a Lobbyist last week. I went up to Albany to catch a professional briber in the act. I did. . . . ."From the precede: "To Nellie Bly was entrusted the by no means easy task of not only discovering who was at the head of the 'Third House' but of receiving detailed and exact evidence of how bills are killed or forced through the Legislature. This mission Nellie Bly undertook and carried through with success at every point."

Follow-up: "Playing MadWoman" - Unsigned - New York Sun

Nellie Bly Too Sharp for Island Doctors; Nine Days Life in Calico; The Sun Finishes Up Its Story of the "Pretty Crazy Girl"; Questioned, Prescribed for, Locked in a Bare Cell Every Night; Uniformed in Furniture Goods; Bathed by Alien Hands; Washed Regularly Without Her Own Hands After Every Meal of Coarse Food; Silly and Uncouth Companions in Whose Childish Pleasure She Did Not Join; Her Deception Successful; Incidents of Her Adventure and Official Accounts of It


The World's major competitor, The New York Sun, interviews Bly on her madhouse expose.

Reaction: "Friends Claim Nellie Marena" - Unsigned - New York Sun


Reaction: "Nelly Marina or Brown" - Unsigned - New York Sun

She Tells a Little About Herself, but is a Mystery Yet


"Nelly Marina, who also calls herself Nelly Brown, the pretty crazy girl who was sent from Bellevue to Blackwell's Island a week ago yesterday, and about whom there is believed to be a romance, has not yet been claimed. Her case is diagnosed as melancholia, and Dr. Ingram considers it a very hopeful case."

Reaction: "Nellie Brown—Memory Still Gone" - Unsigned - New York Sun

No One Claims the Pretty Crazy Girl at Bellevue


"The doctors are not certain that she is insane. She says continually that men are going to kill her, and that she would kill herself if she only knew the making of the poison she wants to take."

Reaction: "Who Is This Insane Girl?" - Unsigned - New York Sun

She Is Pretty, Well Dressed and Speaks Spanish; She Wandered into Matron Stenard's Home for Women and Asked for a Pistol to Protect Herself


"The Matron said that Nellie came to the Home alone about noon on Friday, and said she was looking for her trunks. She was dressed in a gray flannel dress trimmed with brown, brown silk globes, a black straw sailor's hat trimmed with brown, and wore a thin gray illusion veil."

Behind Asylum Bars Reaction: "Nellie Bly Led the Way" - Unsigned - New York World

The Grand Jury Reports on Abuses at Blackwell's Island Asylum; Its Eyes Opened by THE WORLD's Account of the Horrors of the Place - Condemning the Junior Physicians and the Nurses as Incompetent - Recommending the Employment of Female Doctors


"... From their investigation, the body came to the conclusion that the appropriation made to the Department of Charities and Correction for the present year is insufficient to permit the payment of salaries necessary to secure the services of trained nurses and comptent junior physicians and that these branches of the service are consequentially not as efficient as they should be; that the present medical staff is inadequate to meet the requirements of over 1,600 insane patients confined to the institution, and that the nurses examined are not qualified for the proper discharge of the important duties intrusted to them . . . "

Behind Asylum Bars-Followup: "THE WORLD Their Savior" - Unsigned - New York World

How Nellie Bly's Work Will Help the City's Insane; Her Stories of the Treatment of Patients on Blackwell's Island Induce the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to Grant More Money to the Charity Commissioners - The Mayor Warns Dr. McDonald


". . . The city paid "$1.498,800 last year for maintenance of paupers and the insane. IF the abuses among the insane were to be remedied, President Simmons said, the appropriation for the coming year must be $2,121,152. The Mayor and other members of the Board appeared to believe that the outrages, so graphically described in THE WORLD, were the result of a scanty supply of funds. Almost the entire amount asked for was allowed provisionally. Within a few days the Board will visit the institutions, and, after having ascertained their real needs, will finally pass upon the appropriation for their maintenance. . . ."

IV-Reaction: Behind Asylum Bars: "Some of the Doctors Deny It" - Unsigned - New York World

Nellie Bly's Story Has ... Impression on Commissioners


"It was only a half-hearted and apologetic denial that THE WORLD could get from the asylum authorities regarding Nellie Bly's terrible accusations, a large amount of "referring" to someone else, a refusal to ring forth the accused person, and a female cry of "It can't be so." The reporter was not permitted to see the female attendants whom Nellie charges with atrocious cruelty towards feeble women and the possible truth of this charge was admitted after a left-handed fashion. The charge that patients were plunged into a cold bath was denied, and concerning the bathing of many women ina single water, Supt. Dent could only say, "A nurse who did this would be discharged. . . . "

III-Followup: "UnTruths in Every Line" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Contradicts a Recent Article in The Sun; She Gives Many Additional Facts About Her Remarkable Sojourn on Blackwell's Island; More Praise for Dr. Ingram; He Is the Right Man in the Right Place; The Other Doctors Heartless and Careless


"On my first arrival in New York the editor of the Sun said to me in an interview, "There is nothing so valuable as a reporter who gives facts; who, when told that two and two make four, puts it four instead of three or five." I have always been particular in stating only facts in all my work, but never did I confine myself so closely to this rule as in my story of "Behind Asylum Bars." As the Sun undertook to prove that I really passed ten days as an insane girl on Blackwell's Island, I would like to correct the many mistakes and misstatements which I found throughout the six columns recently published about me in that journal . . . "

"Working Girls Beware!" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Exposes a Snare For Swindling Poor Women; A Contemptible Scheme to Rob Needy Girls Who Seek Employment; Heartless Women Who Promise to Find Work for Scarf-Makers and Lure Them Into Their Clutches; Demanding Pay for Instruction They Never Give, and, After Taking the Last Penny, Turning Them Out With No Effort to Secure Employment; Sad Stories of the Wretched Swindle from the Lips of Helpless Girls and Bereaved MothersthU


"Nellie Bly's Doctors: Seven Well-Known Physicians Disagree About Her Case" - Nellie Bly - New York World

"Dyspepsia" Says Dr. Francis Delafield, of No. 12 West 32d Street; "Malaria" Says Dr. Meyer: "All Stomach Trouble," Says Dr. McNutt; "Shattered Nerves," "Defective Eyes" "Neralgia" &c.; And the Doctors Were All Given the Same and Absolutely Truthful Symptoms; An Extraodinary Variety of Prescriptions Written by These Seven Reputable New York Physicians; The Adage that DOctors Disagree Illustrated in a Somewhat Startling Way; What Can Medical Science Say to This? An Article of Peculiar Interest to Everybody


"I am ill."According to the decision of seven reputable New York physicians I am suffering from seven different complaints. Still I manage to keep up . . . "

"Nellie Bly Buys a Baby" - Nellie Bly - New York World

An Innocent Child Sold Into Slavery for Ten Dollars; The Appalling Traffic in Human Flesh in New York; Heartless Mothers and Grasping Midwives Who Barter Helpless Children for Money; Shocking Indifference of the Slave-Dealers as to What Becomes of the LIttle Ones-No Questions Asked; A Visit to the Midwife Who Sold the Bogus Hamilton Baby; Startling Facts Which Will Appeal to Every Loving Mother in the Land


"I bought a baby last week, to learn how baby slaves are bought and sold in the city of New York. Think of it! An immortal soul bartered for $10! Fathers-mothers-ministers-missionaries, I bought an immortal soul last week for $10! . . . "

Reaction: "Playing Madwoman"- Unsigned - New York Sun

Nellie Bly Too Sharp for Island Doctors; Nine Days in Calico; The Sun Finishes Up Its Story of the 'Pretty Crazy Girl'


"She has been doing newspaper work in New York for several months and is the metropolitan correspondent of a Pittsburgh newspaper. Her mother is the widow of a Pittsburgh lawyer. She is intelligent, capable and self-reliant, and, except for the matter of changing her name to Nellie Bly, has gone about the business of maintaining herself in journalism in a practical, business-like way."

"In the Magdalen Home" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly's Visit to an Institution for Unfortunate Women; A Wicked Girl's Chances for Reformation — How Poor Creatures Abuse a Noble Charity-Matron Burr's Experiences — The Girl Who Befriended an Unlucky Cat — The Toboggan Slide of Sin


"Dressed to suit the character I wished to represent, I went late one evening to East Eighty-eighth street. I saw an old-fashioned building surrounded by a high brick wall, and I knew without looking for the number that it was the institution I wanted...."

"Shadowed by a Detective" - Nellie Bly - New York World

"Nellie Bly Makes a Test of the Private Spy Nuisance"


"The Girls Who Make Boxes" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Tells How It Feels to Be a White Slave; She Tries Her Hand at Making Paper Boxes; Difficulty in Getting a Job; Most Work Two Weeks for Nothing; After One Learns the Trade It Is Hard to Earn a Living; A Fair Picture of the Work


"Very early the other morning, I started out, not with the pleasure-seekers, but with those who toil the day long that they may live. . . . "

"Trying to Be a Servant" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly's Strange Experiences at Two Employment Agencies


"Visiting the Dispensaries" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly Narrowly Escapes Having Her Tonsils Amputated; Treated as a Charity Patient in the Throat, Skin and Ear Infirmaries; She Joins the Throngs of Poor Invalids and Finds Out How Free Medical Aid Is Dispensed; One Brusque Old Doctor Probes Her Throat and Nose and Wants to Perform an Operation; A Young Physician Tells Her Never to Wash Her Face With Soap; The Druggists' Big Profits; What She Saw and Heard


"Wanted - A Few Husbands" - Nellie Bly - New York World

Nellie Bly's Strange Experience at a Noted Matrimonial Agency


"The New York woman can hardly have a single desire that cannot be gratified through some bureau or agency of this town. Through them she can get a house, have it furnished, secure new wardrobe, a good form, a clear complexion, the latest shade of hair and a loan to start the wheels of the concern in good running order. If she desires a husband, and a family warranted to have a marked resemblance, they can be had through the same channels at a nominal price."

II - "Inside the Madhouse" - Nellie Bly - New York World

II - "Nellie Bly's Experience in the Blackwell's Island Asylum; Continuation of the Story of Ten Days with Lunatics; How the City's Unfortunate Wards Are Fed and Treated; The Terrors of Cold Baths and Cruel, Unsympathetic Nurses; Attendants Who Harass and Abuse Patients and Laugh at Their Miseries"


"As the wagon was rapidly driven through the beautiful lawns up to the asylum my feelings of satisfaction at having attained the object of my work were greatly dampened by the look of distress on the faces of my companions."