By Brian Phillips
Illustration by Andrew Janik
Near the beginning of Nellie Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, she describes an argument she had with a newspaper manager. The argument happened in 1888, so call it a year before she set out on her record-breaking journey around the globe, which started 125 years ago today, on November 14, 1889. It’s maybe worth keeping in mind that the late 1880s were not the easiest time to be a female journalist, not that there has ever been an easy time to be a female journalist, not even if you are a supernova of determination like Nellie Bly.
Anyway. In 1888, she went to her bosses at the New York World, Joseph Pulitzer’s paper, where she had talked her way into a job the previous year, and told them she wanted to circumnavigate the earth. Her idea was to try to beat the time of Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s massively popular 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. She’d send dispatches back to the paper, make an adventure out of it. Her editor was in favor, but the World’s business manager — who liked the concept — wanted to send a man.
“It is impossible for you to do it,” he told her. “You are a woman and would need a protector.” Even if she couldtravel alone, he said, she’d want to take too much baggage. “There is no use talking about it,” he insisted. “No one but a man could do this.”
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