Thursday, May 05, 2005

May 5: Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Cochrane!

Another disability history birthday for today. Elizabeth Cochrane, better known by the name she used in her bylines, "Nellie Bly," was born on this date in 1864, in western Pennsylvania. She was a journalist with a knack for publicity and a strong interest in reform. In one of her undercover investigations, she posed as a madwoman to gain entrance to Blackwell Island, New York City's lunatic asylum, to report on conditions there. The full text of the resulting book, Ten Days in a Mad-House, is available online here; her stories about inmate treatment at Blackwell prompted a state investigation of the facility, and ultimately reforms to its practices.

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