She Posed as an Asylum Patient to Expose the System

In the 1800s, female reporters were far and few between, let alone investigative journalists. Even with the odds stacked against her, 23-year-old Nellie Bly broke ground in her revolutionary 10-day mission. After arriving in New York City, she spent 10 days undercover in a notorious insane asylum. And she lived to tell her story.


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In 1887, Nellie Bly pulled off one of the most courageous acts in the history of investigative reporting. She boarded a ferry bound for Blackwell’s Island (also called Roosevelt Island), equipped with not much more than determination. Her daring experiment uncovered a scandal that would shake the country to its core. She posed as clinically insane, immersing herself in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on the island. Why? Because she wanted everyone to know how brutal patients were being treated.

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