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To Expose the Truth about Mental Asylums, Nellie Bly Feigned Insanity to Study One
Today's video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.
Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress archive of culturally valuable materials. She has also written for The New York Times, Wired UK, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Fellow. She is on Twitter @brainpicker.
Maria Popova: In 1885 a young woman named Elizabeth Cochran sent a letter to the editor of her hometown newspaper, The Pittsburgh Dispatch. She was responding to a letter by a man that the paper had published earlier under the title, What Girls Are Good For. This man, the father of five girls, had not so subtly implied the answer: girls are good for birthing babies and tending to households. And he had even evoked China's then policy of killing girl babies as some kind of justification for an act of mercy that would spare girls the drudgery of their destiny of being women in the world. Young Elizabeth Cochran's letter, it was a rebuttal, so impressed the editor that she was hired as a reporter and she went on to become a trailblazing journalist that paved the way for women in media.
A couple of years later when she was only 23 she pulled off one of the most extraordinary feats of investigative journalism. She had heard rumors of patient abuse in mental asylums and so she feigned insanity and checked herself into the women's lunatic asylum in Blackwell's Island. There undercover she endured horrible mistreatment and she barely got out to publish the expose under the title, Ten Days in a Madhouse. It was an instant sensation, so much so that the public attention she brought to the abuse and the horrific things that were happening to patients lead to a grand jury investigation, in which Bly herself assisted. That produced a $1 million increase in the budget for care for the mentally ill in New York City and forever changed their legal protections.
Another couple of years later, at that point Bly is 25, the newspaper for which she worked began losing circulation and so she took matters into our own hands and devised a publicity stunt that she thought would draw attention back to the paper. It was kind of an honorable click bait; if there ever was such a thing this was it, integrity at the risk of the journalist life. So she, inspired by Jules Vern's Eighty Days Around the World, decided to do a real life version of the journey packing little or nothing more actually then a small duffel bag she managed to beat Vern's fictional journey by eight days and set the world record for the first fastest real life voyage around the world in 72 days. In the novel Vern had written anything one man can imagine other men can make real, and here was a woman who made it real, a woman who shaped the future for women in journalism.
This video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.
Nellie Bly may be little known but her achievements are truly outsized. She spoke out for women's rights; carved out a place for women in journalism by feigning insanity, entering a mental institution, and covering what she saw as a reporter; and she beat Jules Verne's hypothetical record of traveling around the world in 80 days, accomplishing the feat in just 72.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.
- Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
- "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
- In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.