Thursday, January 28, 2010

Enter Nellie Bly

Look who's just walked into Under the Skin, my work in progress! It's Nellie Bly, investigative girl reporter herself.

I had decided to have the DeVine sisters, the twin mediums in my 1887 subplot, be the object of an investigative reporter's interest and I thought I'd read up on Nellie Bly for ideas.



What I found was that Nellie herself was available. In May of 1887 she was probably between jobs. She had left the Pittsburgh Dispatch, disgusted with having been returned to the theater and art beat after her exciting six months in Mexico, during which she reported on the life and customs of the people and ran afoul of the current dictatorship after daring to be critical of it.

Her next recorded stop would be New York, where she would gain fame as an undercover reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. Her 10 Days in a Mad-House did a great deal to expose the brutal conditions of the asylums of the time and she would go on to challenge Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days by making the trip in in 72.

But what if, between leaving Pittsburgh and going to New York, Nellie decided to take a kind of working holiday by visiting the Mountain Park Hotel and participating on a seance held by the famous spiritualist sisters, Theodora and Dorothea DeVine?

I think it it sounds like just her sort of gig.

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11 comments:

Martin H. said...

Vicki

A great idea. I'm a big fan of 'what if?'.

I'm also intrigued by '10 Days in a Mad-House'. My great great grandmother was admitted to the county lunatic asylum on two occasions during the latter part of the 19th century. I managed to trace her medical report and found that she had been diagnosed with 'Mania', a term that covered a broad range of conditions, including post-natal depression.

Reader Wil said...

Hi vicki! Nellie Bly had been a ver emancipated woman at the time, with a lot of courage! That's great that you want to write about her!

Pat in east TN said...

Very interesting ... I loved reading what you wrote about her and am excited that she'll be a part of your book.

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

What a teaser you've hit us with this morning! I think this is a brilliant idea! WRITE FAST !!! :)

Amelia said...

I LOVE Nellie Bly...as far as women that I admire go, she's pretty high on my list! I went to a cool exhibit and 4D movie about her at the Newseum in DC last year, and they did a pretty good job bringing her to life, but I just can't wait to see how she manifests in your story. What a great idea! I agree with Carol...write fast! :)

Vagabonde said...

Since my last comment was quite long, I’ll make it short - it sounds thrilling.

Jon Lee said...

This sounds like so much fun.

Vicki Lane said...

Martin, you can follow that link and read the original. It's heartbreaking -- many of the women there didn't belong in a mad house at all. Unfortunately, it used to be very easy for husbands to get an inconvenient wife committed -- sometimes for nothing more than failing to agree with him. (She must be mad!)

Of course I'm not saying this was your GGM's case -- post partum depression is very real.

Nelly Bly was AMAZING! Now I just have to be careful to keep her from taking over.

willow said...

Nellie is my kinda girl! Brave one to spend time in the asylum in those days. Love the vintage pics. They look like they could be her!

Vicki Lane said...

The vintage photos are Nellie -- courtesy Mr. Google.

Tipper said...

Yep sounds plausible to me : ) Can't wait to read the whole account you come up with.