Nellie Bly posed as insane in 1887 to expose abuse in asylums.

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, also known by her pen name Nellie Bly, was born on May 5, 1864, in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania. She was a part of a large family of 15 children.

Elizabeth dreamed of being a writer from a young age, and was known to be the most rebellious of her family. When she was 6-years-old her father died, and her mother had to get married to another man in order to support the family.

Elizabeth’s stepfather was an abusive man who her mother ultimately had to divorce. Although she was very young, Elizabeth had to support her mother, and so decided to go to a small college in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and studied to become a teacher.

Seaman’s exposé, published in the World soon after her return to reality, was a massive success. Her report of the cruelty prompted public and political action led to the reform of the institution. She wrote about this experience in her first book, Ten Days in a Madhouse (1887).

Later in her life, she would reach international celebrity status when she circled the globe by ship, train, burro, balloon, and more.

Nellie Bly died on January 27, 1922, of pneumonia.

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