This Day in History: Nellie Bly’s trip around the world in 72 days

Tara Ross

On this day in 1889, Nellie Bly begins her famous trip around the world. The intrepid female journalist had already gone undercover in an insane asylum and reported on corruption in Mexico. She routinely wrote front page stories and exposés at a time when women were “supposed” to write recipes or style guides.

But Nellie simply refused to submit to such tame expectations. She knew she was capable of more—and her trip around the world was undertaken in exactly that spirit.

Nellie’s trip had been inspired by Jules Verne’s popular novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days.” She pitched the idea to her editor at The New York World a full year before she ultimately embarked on her journey. Unfortunately, the World initially wanted to send a man. “Very well,” she said, “start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

In the end, Nellie departed on her voyage with just a few days’ notice.

Women at the time typically traveled with a lot of baggage. (Think about how big their skirts and bustles and hats could be!) But Nellie was determined to get everything into one small bag. Obviously, she would have to limit her wardrobe—severely. Thus, she had a dress specifically made to withstand three months of constant wear.

Well, technically she had two dresses made, but she couldn’t make the second one fit into her bag. So she left the second dress behind.

Nellie had spent time studying timetables and maps for both ships and trains, and she’d been diligent in planning her route. Yet The World still had to announce Nellie’s trip by stating the obvious: The itinerary might be “very pretty on paper, but it is a case of man proposes and God disposes.”

Weather, mechanical issues, or sickness could throw a wrench into everything, forcing Nellie to miss an important connection. If you think a missed connection in a modern-day airport is bad, then you don’t want to imagine the trouble caused when you miss the last boat out of a port!

Nellie had another challenge, although she didn’t realize it at first. Another female journalist from a competing news outlet was racing against her. Elizabeth Bisland started out from New York, headed west, just a few short hours after Nellie departed from New Jersey, headed east.

Nellie was halfway around the world before she realized that she was not only racing against the clock, but she was also racing against another journalist…

Read the rest of the story at!

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5 Responses to This Day in History: Nellie Bly’s trip around the world in 72 days

  1. Menagerie says:

    She must have been a heck of a gal. Now I’m going to have to go looking for the rest of her story!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. G-d&Country says:

    I am amazed by women like this. There was another woman in the 1800’s who bicycled across the US. So much better than the whining, crazed pu$$y hats of today!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. jeans2ndjeans2nd says:

    After Little Bro passed, one of the auctioneer’s “helpers,” being a good friend (I’ve friends in low places), managed to find the old fam pics from late 1890s and early 1900s. The women, coming from Norway and Denmark bound for Ellis Island, were pictured in their bloomers on the farm, riding the latest craze – motorbikes.

    Your ancestors had similar, if not more harrowing, stories.
    Who was the more intrepid? Who had the most fun, the most satisfaction? One wonders.

    And one wonders, how much did the Nellie Blys inspire our ancestors? What a lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mike Ballard says:

    Thanks for the history lesson! I’m a bonafide history teacher and didn’t know this. My wife and I will be traveling around the world this year, heading east like Nellie Bly, and blogging about it on


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