In 1890, at 25 years of age, Nellie Bly became the most famous woman on earth. In Shaketown, Cayley was so impressed with her efforts, she fought for her own independence.
In 1880, Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was hired by a Pittsburgh (PA) newspaper after she wrote an intelligent and scathing rebuttal to an article; she took up a nom de plume taken from a popular song: “Nellie Bly”. Her early writing focused on the travails of working women, but she was eventually pressured into writing about fashion, gardening, and society tea-parties--the women’s section.
She quit and spent a year in Mexico, but returned to the States to take a job offered by Joseph Pulitzer. Her first story held the New York World's readers spellbound: she went undercover as a patient into New York’s Women’s Lunatic Asylum, revealing the brutality and neglect uncovered there. Nellie Bly became a household name.
In November of 1889, she attempted to beat the mythical Phileas Fogg's journey in the Jules Verne book “Around the World in 80 Days,” saying she could make it in 75. Bly followed the route proposed by Verne scrupulously, traveling with one tiny suitcase, writing that “if one is traveling simply for the sake of traveling and not for the purpose of impressing one’s fellow passengers, the problem of baggage becomes a very simple one.”
She landed by steamer in Oakland (not San Francisco, as Phineas Fogg did), and arrived back in New York seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds after her departure— a record for circling the earth. New York greeted Nellie with fireworks, brass bands and parades. Songs were written about her, dolls and games were created, and her face and name appeared on posters, and advertisements; Nellie Bly had become the most famous woman on earth. The epitome of the gilded age's "New Woman", Bly said, “It’s not so very much for a woman to do who has the pluck, energy and independence which characterize many women in this day of push and get-there.”