In the days when I still wore knee socks and Mary Jane shoes, biographies ranked among my favorite reads. One of the most memorable that made a lasting impression was Nellie Bly: Reporter by Nina Brown Baker.

In the days when I still wore knee socks and Mary Jane shoes, biographies ranked among my favorite reads. One of the most memorable that made a lasting impression was Nellie Bly: Reporter by Nina Brown Baker.
At a young age, I knew I wanted to become a writer so the story of the daring young journalist appealed to me.
Although I had yet to read Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days, I was familiar with the story. Maybe I'd read an annotated version in The Weekly Reader we received at school or watched a movie based on the novel. Either way, Nellie Bly's efforts to travel the globe to match or beat fictional character Phileas Fogg. Bly did - doing it in 72 hours in 1889.
Bly was born Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman on May 4, 1864 in Pennsylvania. Her original surname was Cochran without the 'e' which she added later. After attending school to become a teacher, she failed to finish for economic reasons. She and her widowed mother moved to Pittsburgh where they ran a boarding house.
Her writing career took off when then 18-year old Elizabeth Cochrane submitted a heated response to a editorial in The Pittsburgh Dispatch rebutting the writer's claim that women belonged in the home and that working women were a monstrosity. Her pithy piece caught the main editor's eye and she was hired by the paper. She chose the pen name Nellie Bly, after a popular Stephen Foster song, Nelly Bly. Somewhere along the way, the original spelling changed but reporter Nellie Bly was born.
She wrote for The Pittsburgh Dispatch for two years, until 1887 when she headed for New York City. By then, Bly was disgruntled with the Pittsburgh's paper's efforts to confine her to writing for the women's pages.
In New York, Bly joined the staff of the New York World, a paper that would launch a new, sensationalist form of writing that would be dubbed 'yellow journalism'.  Bly went undercover in one of her first big stories and spent ten days in a lunatic asylum on Blackwell's Island. Her article about her experiences brought her fame and a book, Ten Days In A Mad House, was later published. It remains in print today,
Bly sought out the gritty stories that revealed the darker side of life. She delved into the lives of working women who made boxes, visited West Point, spent time with a tiger, and investigated what became of the many babies given up to orphanages and foundling homes.  Bly spent the night in a haunted house and wrote of her experiences and must more.
As her name grew familiar and her following grew, Bly came up with the boldest plan yet - she would attempt to follow the footsteps of fictional character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's 1873 popular novel, "Around The World In 80 Days" and see if she could match or beat that record. The year was 1889.
Bly did - she traveled the world, leaving from Hoboken, New Jersey and returning to the same in a total of 72 days,  6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. She traveled by ship, horse, rickshaw, burro, and other modes of transportation and wrote a book about her experiences.
Although her record didn't stand long - George Francis Train accomplishing traveling around the globe in 67 days - her fame for the feat lives on.
She continued to write expose stories until she married a man forty years her senior in 1895. After his last illness and death, she worked in the company he'd founded. Bly patented a 55-gallon oil drum, a design still used today but as her funds grew short, she returned to journalism for a few more years.
Bly died on January 22, 1922 in New York City, a victim of pneumonia, once a leading cause of death for all ages. Although she died at the age of 57, a short two years after returning to journalism, her legacy remains alive.
Many of her articles can still be read online and her books are available in many places, including Amazon.com. And, the biography I first read along with newer versions, can also be found.
So Nellie Bly remains an inspiration to other writers like me.

Lee Ann Murphy writes a column for the Neosho Daily News and is a staff writer for the paper.