Ten Days in a Mad-House

Nellie Bly, Ten Days in a Mad-House. Book version of a two-part series published in the New York World on 9 October and 16 October 1887. From Time magazine, 12 April 2009: “It was rare for a woman to hold a job in the 19th century. It was even rarer for one to work at as a newspaper reporter — and rarer still to have that paper send her undercover, to expose the brutality and neglect within a New York mental institution. But in 1887, that’s exactly what Nellie Bly did. Bly had herself involuntarily committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for ten days. (She checked into a women’s boarding facility, acted erratically, and then allowed the all-too-eager boarding house employees to call the loony bin). After gaining entrance to the facility, the 23-year-old reverted back to a normal, sane pattern of behavior and tried to get them to release her. ‘Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted the crazier I was thought to be,’ she wrote in her series of articles for the New York World. Bly recounted stories of spoiled food, nurses who kept patients awake all night, ice cold baths, beatings and forced feedings. The articles aroused public outcry, [and] brought on much needed political reform….”

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