130 years ago today, pioneering female journalist Nellie Bly began her record-breaking attempt to travel around the world in 80 days. She succeeded—and needed only 72. She wanted to prove that the Jules Verne fictional journey Around the World in 80 Days could be achieved and traveled 24,899 miles, mostly alone, using steamships and trains, wearing only the dress on her back, a sturdy overcoat and carrying a small travel bag with toiletries and underwear. LEARN more… (1889)
While circumnavigating the globe for her newspaper, New York World, she was able to send short progress reports via submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph. Longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and thus, were delayed by several weeks. During her historic trip, she met Jules Verne in France, visited a leper colony in China and, in Singapore, she bought a monkey.
Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, first became renown for her undercover investigation on insane asylum conditions, during which she pretended to be mad. Her expose led to a grand jury investigation and $850,000 in increased funds to care for the insane.
Bly’s career began when she was 16, after a misogynistic column, “What Girls Are Good For,” ran in the Pittsburgh Dispatch and prompted her to write a fiery anonymous rebuttal to the editor. He was so impressed with her passion that he ran an advertisement asking the author to identify herself. When Ms. Cochrane introduced herself to the editor, George Madden, he offered her the opportunity to write a piece for the newspaper. (Nellie wrote books about her experiences, and there are stories for children about her trip.)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Treasure Island by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson was first published—the pirate story which was the first to talk about treasure maps marked with an “X”, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders, from which over 50 film and TV versions have been produced and dozens of major adaptations for the stage (1883)
- Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light (1908)
- Czechoslovakia became a republic (1918)
- The BBC, British Broadcasting Company, began radio broadcasts (1922)
- President Roosevelt declared the Philippines to be a free territory (1935)
- Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gordie Howe set a new NHL record with his 627th career goal (1964)
- The first public trains used the Channel Tunnel to transport passengers under the English Channel (1994)
And, on this day in 1840 Claude Monet, one of the founders of French Impressionist painting, was born in Paris.
Beloved for his later depictions of lily ponds outside his Giverny countryside home, he exemplified the movement’s core value of expressing one’s perceptions of nature through broken color and rapid brushstrokes. The term “Impressionism” was derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise, displayed in 1874 at the first exhibition mounted by the radical new school of artists. Look at dozens of his works on Wikipedia…
And on this day in 1851, Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick was published. With one of the most famous opening lines in literature, “Call me Ishmael,” a sailor tells the story of the obsessive quest of Captain Ahab for revenge on a white whale that bit off the whaler’s leg at the knee.
The novel was a commercial failure, and out of print at the time of the author’s death 40 years later, but during the 20th century, it earned a reputation as a Great American Novel. “The book draws on Melville’s experience at sea, on whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible to offer a realistic description of life aboard ship with a culturally diverse crew.”
And on this day in 1982, Lech Wałęsa, the leader of Poland’s outlawed Solidarity movement, was released after eleven months of persecution and internment near the Soviet border.
Two years earlier the electrician had won a sweeping victory with communist rulers for the right to organize independent unions that could strike. He continued his activism, which culminated in semi-free parliamentary elections in 1989 and a Solidarity-led government, with a reluctant Walesa becoming Poland’s first popularly elected president the following year—the first non-Communist president in nearly a half century.