New York: Viking, 2016
In a time when American women had few choices and little control of their futures, Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran, better known as Nellie Bly, made things happen. She is an excellent example of grit, tenacity and courage, even for modern students. Nellie made a name for herself as a so-called “stunt reporter,” going undercover to get the real story. Not considered a great writer at the time, she was a gifted interviewer with a talent for telling a personal story to get to the heart of a matter. Her best reporting exposed curruption, abuse, and neglect, and told the stories of those unable to tell their own. Her gender may have made it difficultto get a serious reporting job in New York, but once she managed to get the job, it proved to be a real asset. No one suspected the small, pretty, young woman of being a serious undercover reporter. She was a pioneer of investigative journalism.
Noyes titled her book Ten Days a Madwoman, referring to Nellie’s first big undercover job at the infamous insane asylum for women on Blackwell’s Island in New York. The first half of the book focuses on Nellie’s efforts to get into the asylum, her experience there, and her reporting afterward. The second half is about some of her adventures during the rest of her life, including her trip around the world in 72 days (quite a feat in 1889!).
Blue pages in the book take us to flashbacks, asides, and interesting information about Nellie and her times, like how she adopted Nellie Bly as her pen name. The blue pages add depth and color to the book, already rich with illustrations, photographs, engravings and newspaper images. Throughout the book we encounter history-makers of the time like Jules Vern, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, and Joseph Pulitzer. With extensive source notes, a bibliography including further reading and websites, picture credits, and a detailed index, Ten Days a Madwoman would be an excellent addition to any middle school or high school nonfiction collection.
Dewey: 070.92 Interest Level: Grade 6 and up
Reviews and Awards: Booklist, Horn Book Guide, Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal starred, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA).
Younger readers might like: The Daring Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter by Bonnie Christensen.
Middle grade readers might like: Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly by Sue Macy.
On the web:
Nellie Bly: The Pioneer Woman Journalist – A Resource Website at http://www.nellieblyonline.com/. Find some actual articles that Nellie wrote, a photo gallery, links to additional websites and more.
Video: American Experience: Around the World in 72 Days DVD from PBS. Available at https://shop.pbs.org/american-experience-around-the-world-in-72-days-dvd/product/WG40109.