Nellie Bly Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Nellie Bly was a journalist at a time when there were very few women in the workforce. This lesson will teach you about Nellie Bly, her adventures, her inventions, and why she wrote under a fake name!

Nellie Bly's Early Years

Imagine that you found out your rival school's soccer team is trying to sneak a peek at your team's playbook before the big game. You decide to go undercover, like a detective, to investigate what's going on and discover that the rumor is true. You write a story for your school newspaper using a fake name, telling everyone what the other team is up to. You have a lot in common with a journalist named Nellie Bly!

Nellie Bly was the pen name of a female journalist at a time when women usually didn't work outside the home. A pen name is a fake name used by writers so no one knows who they really are.

Her real name was Elizabeth Cochran and she was born around 1864 in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania. From an early age, Elizabeth liked to write and was very independent. She even added an 'e' to the end of her last name, making it 'Cochrane', just to be different.

Elizabeth Cochrane, also known as Nellie Bly
Elizabeth Cochrane also known as Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly Gets a Job

In 1885, after moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth read an article in a newspaper called the Pittsburgh Dispatch about how women shouldn't work outside the home. It made her really mad, so she wrote a letter to the editor explaining why she disagreed with the article.

The editor liked her writing and offered her a job. She took the pen name 'Nellie Bly' because women who had a job were looked down on in those days. While other female journalists wrote about things like fashion and flowers, Nellie wrote about things like protecting women's rights. Nellie even worked in Mexico as a journalist but eventually got kicked out for writing about how dishonest the Mexican government was.

She later went to work for a different newspaper called New York World and worked for a famous journalist named Pulitzer, who has a journalism award named after him. She went undercover to learn about and report on things like the mistreatment of workers, hospital patients, and prisoners. Though this kind of reporting was not respected at the time, today it's common and she would be called an investigative journalist.

Nellie Bly Travels Around the World

You probably like going on adventures to new places with your friends and family, and Nellie Bly liked adventure, too. She went all the way around the world on things like boats, trains, and balloons in just a little over 72 days! She even wrote a book about her adventure.

Nellie Bly, ready to travel
Nellie Bly ready to travel

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