Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 25: "I am almost worn out…”

Do you know who this is?

-He nominated George Washington as commander of the Continental Army.
-He introduced the resolution for construction of the first ships that would become the US Navy.
-He died of smallpox.

He was born on May 25, 1725, in Newport, Rhode Island, and was the second son born to his parents, Richard and Mary Tillinghast Ward. His parents were merchants in Newport, and his father became Governor of Rhode Island in 1741 and 1742. While not much is known about Samuel Ward’s childhood, it is known that he had a private, tutored education. Samuel would marry in 1745 to Anna Ray, and would settle in Westerly, where he would farm and open a store. He would start his public careen at the age of thirty-one, when he was elected to represent the town of Westerly in the Rhode Island General Assembly, serving from 1756 to 1759. He also was one of the founders of the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) in 1756, and served as a member of its board of trustees from 1764 to 1776.

In 1761 the Assembly would name him Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Rhode Island, a position in which he served in 1761 – 1762. Samuel was also the Governor of Rhode Island under its royal charter in 1762, 1763, and 1765 – 1767. He would be the only royal governor to refuse to enforce the Stamp Act, and he was active in organizing committees of intelligence in Rhode Island to resist British authority.

As he became firmly convinced of the need to oppose England in her increasingly oppressive laws – as evidenced in neighboring Massachusetts – Samuel began organizing town meetings throughout Rhode Island to promote and unite the opposition to the Crown. As a result of his efforts and these meetings, a general congress of all of the colonies was first proposed at a town meeting in Providence on May 17, 1774. During a session of the Rhode Island General Assembly on June 15, 1773, Rhode Island became the first colony to elect delegates to the Continental Congress. Samuel Ward and Stephen Hopkins were elected to the proposed Continental Congress – which subsequently met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

While at the Continental Congress, he was a friend and ally of Samuel Adams and John Adams – both of Massachusetts. He was also a friend and ally of Benjamin Franklin, and is the man who nominated George Washington of Virginia as the commander of the Continental Army. This occurred because Samuel was also the presiding officer over the Continental Congress when it was meeting as a Committee of the Whole. This Committee would recommend "...that a general be appointed to command all the Continental forces raised, or to be raised, for the defence of American liberty." This was passed and George Washington was chosen by ballot to take command of American forces.

Samuel also was an advocate in the Congress for an American navy, and is the man who introduced the resolution authorizing the construction of the first thirteen vessels that would make up what was to become the American Navy. He was also a friend to General Nathanael Greene.

His activities during this trying time – all of it prior to Independence – took an increasing toll on Samuel’s health. He wrote in October 1775:
"I am almost worn out with attention to business. I am upon a standing committee of claims, which meets every morning before Congress, and upon the secret committee which meets almost every afternoon; and these, with close attendance upon Congress, and writing many letters, make my duty very hard, and I cannot get time to ride or take other exercise. But I hope the business will not be so pressing very long"
Samuel Ward would serve in the Continental Congress until his death due to smallpox in 1776. Since 18th century smallpox inoculations usually resulted in the individual becoming deathly ill for up to two weeks. Although the inoculations proved to be the best way to avoid or lessen the impact of smallpox, Samuel had delayed inoculation out of the concern that it might incapacitate him while important work had to be done in the Congress during this critical time.

Samuel was presiding over the Congress when he was taken ill on March 15, 1776. He died in Philadelphia on March 26th - just three months before he would have signed the Declaration of Independence.

His death was a shock to the other delegates to the Continental Congress. They quickly passed a resolution stating that all the delegates would attend the funeral.

It was through the desire to follow his conscience – regardless of political consequences – as well as he ability to negotiate, influence, and persuade his fellow citizens on a course of action that places Samuel Ward above many of his contemporaries. While he is not a widely know historical figure today, if he would have lived another twenty years his influence and contributions would be more widely known and emulated.

Our local library has no biography of Samuel Ward


Famous and Notable Wards
Find A Grave
Good News Newsletter
One Eternal Day


01. Portrait of Samuel Ward: Wikipedia
02. Gravesite: Find A Grave, photo by Jen Snoots


Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 22: "I hated conventional art."

Do you know who this is?
-She was the first popularly recognized American female artist.
-She never married.
-She backed the suffrage movement in the early twentieth century.

She was the only American involved in the original Impressionist art movement. She was self-disciplined, intense, and outspoken. She never entered into marriage: “I am independent! I can live alone and I love to work.”

Mary Cassatt was born on May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, as one of seven children born to Robert Simpson Cassatt and Katherine Kelso Johnston Cassatt. Her family was well-to-do family of wealth. Her father was successful as a stockbroker and land speculator. Her mother came from a successful banking family.

Mary began attending school in Philadelphia at the age of six. However, she grew up in a world where those of financial means viewed travel as an integral part of education. Consequently, she spent five years in Europe where she learned German and French, toured the capitals of Europe – such as Berlin, London, and Paris – and was given her first lessons in drawing and music. The family set sail in June 1851 – when Mary was 7 - spending a month in London, then two years in France and another two years in Germany. During those years Mary could well have seen the Crystal Palace in London and the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris. It was in Paris that some of the artwork of Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas, both of whom would have an influence in her life and career as an artist. Degas would later say of her: “Most women paint as though they are trimming hats. Not you.”

By the time the eleven year old Mary returned from Europe, she had completed her fundamental education. She had studied classical literature, was fluent in French and German, and had attended local schools in the countries she lived in during the European tour. When she was fifteen she overcame her parents objections to her becoming a professional artist and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Soon after the end of the Civil War, when Mary was twenty-two, she declared that she could learn no more in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her parents yielded and let her go back to Europe, accompanied by her mother as a chaperone. She would study the techniques of the masters throughout Europe, travelling to Rome, Seville, Antwerp, and Paris. She copied paintings to grasp the techniques used by the masters and to develop and refine her own. In 1868 one of her paintings was accepted for the first time for public display. That painting - A Mandoline Player - is today one of only two paintings that can be documented as being painted during the first decade of her artistic career.

She would return to her parents home in the United States in 1870. Her father continued to object to her chosen career by not paying for her art supplies. Mary would place two of her paintings in a New York gallery – and while many viewers made positive comments, no one bought them. Mary quickly became frustrated with the lack of the inspiration and freedom she had experienced in Europe. She used the money paid by the Archbishop of Pittsburgh for two paintings to finance her return to Europe in late 1871.

The time spent in Europe would mark her transition from Romanticist to Impressionist. Although she had some success, Mary became frustrated with the established salons and their methods of judging art – judging which created known artists and hence sales and income for that artist.

Her father was still insisting that she pay her own painting expenses, and by 1877 times were becoming difficult for Mary. Her family rejoined her, and would live in Europe for the next eighteen years. She never married, dedicating her life to her work. In 1878, she would break with the Romanticist when invited by Degas to show her paintings in an Impressionist salon. She quickly realized she had found her niche in the art world. She commented:

“I accepted with joy. At last, I could work with absolute independence without considering the opinion of a jury. I had already recognized who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas. I hated conventional art.”
Her style would continue to grow and change, and by 1886 she was no longer a member of any established school of art. She began experimenting with a variety of techniques. She painted what she saw, and her most popular paintings revolved around women with children. When she returned to America in 1884, she began to extend her influence on America art by giving advice to art dealers. The 1890s were her most productive years, and she became the role model of young American artists. At the dawn of the twentieth century - although her work was no longer the cutting edge of the art world - she became an advisor to several art dealers. By 1914 she had to stop painting because she was nearly blind – yet she took up the cause of women’s suffrage.
She died on June 14, 1926 at Château de Beaufresne, near Paris, and was buried in the family vault at Mesnil-Théribus, France. Her works are still popular today, and studied by students around the world.


Mary Cassatt : DVD [videorecording] : American impressionist
Michael Cain: Mary Cassatt (Juvenile)
Nancy Matthews: Mary Cassatt
Griselda Pollack: Mary Cassatt
Julia Carson: Mary Cassatt


Life of Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt
Metropolitan Museum of Art
National Gallery of Art
National Women’s Hall of Fame
Web Museum



Cassatt 01. Self Portrait: Wikipedia
Cassatt 02. The Mandolin Player: The Humanities Web
Cassatt 03. The Mothers Kiss (1890): National Gallery of Art
Cassatt 04. The Child’s Bath (1893): Art Institute of Chicago
Cassatt 05. Signature: Museum Syndicate

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 20: "…the pelting of this pitiless storm…"

Do you know who this is?
-He was thought to be the best gunsmith in America.
-He served in three wars.
-He calmly walked through an artillery barrage at the age of 69.

His name is one that many have not heard of, but it is the name of a man who displayed many of the traits that came to be associated with our Founding Fathers: ingenuity, inventiveness, bravery, and no stranger to the sounds of battle.

Seth Pomeroy was born on May 20, 1706, and would lead a long life of involvement with his home colony of Massachusetts – passing away at the age of 71. His parents were Ebeneezer and Sarah King Pomeroy, of Northampton Massachusetts. His father was a prominent citizen in the community and served in the local militia, rising to the rank of major.

Not much is known about Seth’s early years or education. However, he did learn the trade of mechanic and gunsmith, becoming one of the best gunsmiths in the colony. He married Mary Hunt on December 14, 1732, and would have nine children.

He joined the militia in Hampshire County (Massachusetts) as a young man, and by the time he was 38 he held the rank of Captain. By 1745 he was a major, and he volunteered for service during the King George’s War (1744 – 1748). He would be a part of an expedition led by William Pepperrell that captured the French fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia in 1745. During the expedition he used his skills and training to lead twenty gunsmiths in the time-consuming and delicate task of reconditioning captured cannons that the French had ‘spiked’ to make them unusable. These repaired and reconditioned cannons were then used by the British and Americans to assist in the artillery bombardment of the fortress, which eventually forced Louisbourg to surrender after forty-six days of heavy bombardment.

By 1755 Seth had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and was the second-in-command in Colonel Ephraim Williams’ regiment. During the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) Williams’ regiment became part of a 1500 man British/Colonial force which was under the overall command of Sir William Johnson. This force marched to New York to assist in the capture of Crown Point, one of the key defensive points of French controlled Lake Champlain. During the march they were ambushed by a force of French and Canadian troops and their Iroquois allies. The 800 French and Canadian troops, with the support of 600 Iroquois warriors, were led by Baron Dieskaw. During the ambush – which became known as the “Bloody Morning Scout” - the British/colonial column was routed, and Colonel Williams was killed. Seth assumed command, and stayed with a rear-guard detachment of about one hundred men who delayed the enemy until the British and colonials could reorganize at a British camp a few miles away. Seth later wrote:

“And a very handsome retreat they made, and so continued till they came within about three-quarters of a mile of our camp. This was the last fire our men gave our enemies, which killed great numbers of them; they were seen to drop as pigeons."
The pursuing Indians and Canadians would not attack the British defenses, and when Baron Dieskau was wounded leading a French attack and captured, the entire force withdrew. The Battle of Lake George was over.

The British actions to recoup some of the finances spent during the French and Indian war ultimately drove many colonials – including Seth – into the rebel camp or, at the very least, to sympathy with the developing animosity with the British. The taxes, armed British soldiers, and increasing hostile British actions seemed often to center around Massachusetts. Seth served as a delegate in 1774 – 1775 in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which made him a brigadier-general in February 1775. When the shooting war started in 1775, sixty-nine year old Seth was found among the volunteers that went to support the rebellion.

When, on June 17th, a British naval bombardment marked the start of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Seth borrowed a horse from General Artemas Ward and rode for Charlestown. Finding the “Neck” under heavy fire by the British ship “Glasgow”, he became concerned more for the safety of a borrowed horse than for himself. Too honest to expose the borrowed steed to the "pelting of this pitiless storm," and too bold to shrink from it, he delivered the horse to a sentry, shouldered his gun, and marched on foot through the barrage, across the Neck, and up the hill to take a position at the rail fence, fighting with the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. He was soon recognized by the soldiers along side of him, and they began shouting his name down the Colonial defensive line. A poem was written over a hundred years later, in 1911, to commemorate his ride.

The next week, the Continental Congress named him a brigadier general in the Continental Army, but he declined the commission, preferring to serve in the Massachusetts militia. He retired from active duty to his farm, but when New Jersey was overrun by the British in 1776, Seth marched with his militia unit to answer General Washington’s call for assistance.

Seth did not complete the trip. He fell ill along the way and died in Peekskill, New York. He was buried there in St. Peter’s Churchyard.


There are no biographies available in our Local Library about Seth Pomeroy.


American Heritage
Famous Americans
Historic Northamption
Old Fort Johnson


01. Revolutionary War Musket
02. History Re-enactor firing musket
03. Gravestone


Monday, May 11, 2009

May 11: “In a moment I was in the air…”

Do you know who this is?
-She designed her own aviator clothing.
-She was the first woman to fly across the English Channel
-She was the screenwriter on five romantic movies, all directed by the legendary D.W. Griffith.

She was the first women to receive a pilot license in the United States, became the first woman to fly across the English Channel, and was a world-traveling journalist.

Harriet Quimby was born on May 11, 1875, in a farmhouse three miles outside of the northern Michigan town of Arcadia. Her parents were William Quimby, an American Civil War veteran, and Ursula Quimby. They homesteaded 160 acres during the 1860s and developed a small, self sufficient farm.

Not a lot is known about Harriet during her childhood. She lived and worked on her parents farm, where neighbors were scarce, winters were harsh, and farm life was hard. The nearest school in this rural community was just over two miles away, and Harriet proved herself to be a bright and capable student in the one-room school that served her farm community.

In 1887, when she was twelve years old, her father mortgaged their home and farm, and went to San Francisco, California, with his family. It was in California that Harriet discovered a passion for acting that would influence her life. She wanted to become an actress – and is listed as one in the 1900 census. However, while her passion was acting, her skill was in journalism, and it was through journalism that she would start her public career.

Harriet would move to New York City in 1902 at the age of 27. Upon arrival, she would change her birth date to 1885, subtracting ten years from her age – a fact that was not realized until after her untimely death in 1912. In New York she worked for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly as an editor, writer, and photographer, traveling extensively traveling and writing from spots around the world. She also used her knowledge and love of acting to report on the theater in New York City.

Her writing focused on activities that were exciting to herself, and to her readers. She wrote about travel, the theater, racecars, and airplanes. In 1906, after riding in a car that sped along at 100 m.p.h., she not only told her readers of the experience, she would buy her own car – a rarity for women in the era. In 1910 she covered the International Aviation Tournament, and was attracted to the adventure, the attention, and the danger of flight.

By 1911, heavier than air powered flight was not even a decade old, and the aircraft were truly of basic design. Learning to fly became a goal in her life – appealing both to her journalistic sense and her theatric passions. She met and became friends with John Moisant and his sister Matilde, and in 1911 enrolled in his flying school. She attended the Moisant Flight School, on Long Island, New York, where she and Matilde Moisant would become the first American female aviators. While a few other women had flown, none had received a license.

With a flair for the dramatic, Harriet finally had her world stage: flight. While other women wore men’s flight gear, she designed her own – a satin jacket with a hood, high laced boots, and satin riding pants – all in purple material. She became famous as a female pilot, and capitalized on the fact by writing articles for Leslie’s and providing flying demonstrations. In September 1911, she became the first woman to make a nighttime flight – to the awe of 15,000 spectators on Staten Island, New York who watched during the moonlight night. In November 1911, she and Matilde toured Mexico, becoming the first women to fly over Mexico.

She gained international renown by becoming the first woman to fly across the English Channel. While the flight was only 22 miles, it was a dangerous flight because of the unpredictable Channel weather. She flew in a 50-horsepower Bleriot monoplane, landing on a beach in France. Unfortunately for Harriet, she would not get the headlines she deserved for her accomplishment. Headlines were dedicated to the sinking of the Titanic.

She would write in an article titled: An American Girl's Daring Exploit, May 16, 1912:
“…the [borrowed Bleriot monoplane] machine was shipped very secretly to the aerodrome on Dover Heights, …a fine smooth ground from which to make a good start. The famous Dover Castle stands on the cliffs, overlooking the channel. It points the way to Calais. I saw at once I only had to rise in my machine, fix my eyes upon the castle, fly over it and speed directly across to the French coast. It seemed so easy that it looked like a cross-country flight. I am glad I thought so and felt so, otherwise I might have had more hesitation about flying in the fog with an untried compass, in a new and untried machine, knowing that the treacherous North Sea stood ready to receive me if I drifted only five miles too far out of my course…

…It was a cold five-thirty a.m. when my machine got off the ground…the motor began to make its twelve hundred revolutions a minute, and I put up my hand to give the signal of release. Then I was off. The noise of the motor drowned the shouts and cheers of friends below. In a moment I was in the air, climbing steadily in a long circle. I was up fifteen hundred feet within thirty seconds. From this high point of vantage my eyes lit at once on Dover Castle…In an instant I was beyond the cliffs and over the channel…the thickening fog obscured my view. Calais was out of sight…There was only one thing for me to do and that was to keep my eyes fixed on the compass…

…The distance straight across from Dover to Calais is only twenty-two miles, and I knew that land must be in sight if I could only get below the fog and see it. So, I dropped from an altitude of about two thousand feet until I was half that height. The sunlight struck upon my face and my eyes lit upon the white and sandy shores of France. I felt happy…rather than tear up the farmers' fields [below] I decided to drop down on the hard and sandy beach…A crowd of fishermen…came rushing from all directions toward me. They were congratulating themselves that the first woman to cross in an aeroplane had landed on their fishing beach…It was now nearly seven o'clock and I felt like eating breakfast…”
She returned to America, and on July 1, 1912 – when future aviators Amelia Earhart was 9 and Charles Lindbergh was in his teens – Harriet flew her last flight. At an air show near Boston her plane suddenly lurched, throwing her passenger – William Willard, the event’s organizer – and herself from the plane. They fell to their deaths while the empty plane glided in, landed, and flipped over in the mud.

Harriet Quimby had only flown for a year, but had made a mark on aviation. Her actions would inspire other women to conquer the world of flight.

Marissa Moss, Brave Harriet : the First Woman to Fly the English Channel, Juvenile collection.
Jacqueline Kolosov, Women with Wings, Juvenile collection.


01. 1902 Portrait: Converse College
02. Harriet readying for her first flying lesson: Converse College
03. Harriet’s First Solo, 1911: Converse College
04. Harriet in her flying suit: Converse College
05. Harriet in her Bleriot Monoplane, 1911: Library of Congress, Digital ID: cph 3a35973

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 8: "...grey-eyed man of destiny."

Do you know who this is?

-He would receive a medical degree when he was nineteen.
-He led four invasions of Central America.
-He was executed by a firing squad at the age of 36.

He was a college graduate by the age of fourteen, a medical doctor, a lawyer, a newspaper editor and owner, and a man with a vision for conquering lands to rule. He travelled extensively in Europe, was a skilled swordsman, and embodied romanticized ideas of chivalry and honor.

He was born in Nashville, Tennessee on May 8, 1824, to James and Mary Norvell Walker. His mother's heritage could be traced back to the founding of Williamsburg while his father was a Scottish immigrant who arrived in this country in 1820 and moved west to own - by 1822 - a 752-acre farm outside of Nashville.

William Walker was a highly intelligent child who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Nashville at the age of fourteen. At the age of nineteen he would receive a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and would practice medicine briefly in Philadelphia. He was greatly affected when he was powerless to help his mother, who died of a disease soon after he received his medical degree.

He would move to New Orleans to study law and was admitted to the bar by the time he was twenty-one, opening a partnership with his friend, Edmund Randolph. He would become co-owner and editor of a newspaper called the Crescent while in New Orleans, which would go bankrupt after the death ofhis fiancee, who died during a cholera epidemic that swept throug New Orleans.

After the newspaper went bankrupt, he moved to California - which had just been brought under the American flag - in 1849 and began working as a reporter in San Francisco, then setting up a law office in Marysville.

The idea of leading a private army to conquer lands in Latin America, which were to be ruled by white English settlers, entered William's mind as California became a new state in the Union. His first effort to dothis was supposedly in response to Indian attacks into Southern California from the Mexican state of Sonora. He had originally tried to get permission from the Mexican government to establish a colony in Sonora as a buffer to protect Californians from the Indian threat of raids. When Mexico refused to consider the offer, he organized a private "company" of about fifty men in 1853 to establish his Republic. His initial invasion to 'protect the people' was successful, with his capturing the capital of the Mexican province in a single day. He declared the province 'the Republic of Sonora', with himself as President, but discovered that he had no support among the residents. Irregular Mexican forces grew - as did the efforts of theMexican government - and eventually William and the remains of his army were driven back into California.

William was tried in California for violation of American neutrality laws with his invasion of Mexico, but was acquitted by the jury after eight minutes of deliberation. He became a minor national hero for his actions.

Effort number two would come soon after his acquittal. Chaos ruled in Nicaragua as two groups - Democrats and Legitimists - fought each other for control of the country. The Democrats invited William to recruit an army of volunteers and to go to Nicaragua to help them secure control of the country. He recruited a group of adventurers that came to be called by the press 'the Immortals', and landed in Nicaragua in 1855. Using his troops as well as rebel forces, William within a year captured the capital city of Granada, and repelled an invasion by Costa Rica. However, a war of attrition continued, and more soldiers on both sides died from disease than from any other cause.
William was elected President of Nicaragua on July12, 1856 - which was briefly recognized by the United States government - but was forced to flee the country due to a number of forces aligned against him. Men like Cornelius Vanderbilt - who had been snubbed by William - armed William's enemies in order to secure political leverage for control of the San Juan River-Lake Nicaragua route linking the Caribbean to the Pacific. The British navy harassed his re-supply efforts in an ettampt to exert their control of the region. Finally, other countries in Central America allied against him. On May 1, 1858, he surrendered to U.S. Navy Commodore Charles Henry Davis and was returned to the United States.

He was greeted as a hero upon his arrival, and was able to visit President Buchanan as well as to recruit for another foray into Central America. He raised another army, but was blocked during his third invasion of Central America by the British navy, and arrested by U.S. Navy Commodore Henry Paulding.
Returning to the United States for finances and support, William began to change his stance on slavery. While he had typically taken a mild anti-slavery stance during his lifetime, he realized that his best support for his expansionist ideas was from the South. Consequently, he wrote a book titled The War in Nicaragua, in which he advocated a strong pro-slavery stance, and received the needed support so that in 1860 he could again sail south.

He could not land in Nicaragua because of the British navy. Therefore he landed in Honduras with the intent of conducting an overland march into Nicaragua. However, the British captured him and turned him over to the Hondurans. On September 12, 1860, at the age of thirty-six, he was executed by a Honduran firing squad, ending the William Walker Saga. He is buried in the Cementerio Viejo in the coastal town of Trujillo, Honduras.


There are no local library resources available.



01. Latin American Studies: Portrait of William Walker
02. Map of Nicaragua: Library of Congress, Digital ID: g4850 ma001010

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 5: “…I am running a race with Time.”

Do you know who this is?

-Her nickname was 'Pink" because it was her favorite color when she was a child.
-Her professional name was from a Stephen Foster song.
-She was one of the leading female industrialists of the early 20th Century.

"Down in the bottom of my hand-bag was a special passport, number 247, signed by James G. Blaine, Secretary of State. Someone suggested that a revolver would be a good companion piece for the passport, but I had such a strong belief in the world's greeting me as I greeted it, that I refused to arm myself. I knew if my conduct was proper I should always find men ready to protect me, let them be Americans, English, French, German or anything else." - Around the World in 72 Days
Elizabeth Jane Cochran was born on May 5, 1864, at Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania. She was the last of three children born to Michael and Mary Jane Cochran. Both of her parents had been married previously, with Mary Jane a widow with no children, and Michael an industrialist and associate judge who had seven children from an earlier marriage. As a youngster, Elizabeth would try to prove herself the equal of any of her older brothers, including racing with them and climbing trees.

Her early education was conducted at home by her father, but he died in 1870 when she was only six years old. Three years later her mother would remarry, but would divorce her alcoholic and abusive husband when Elizabeth was fourteen. After her father's death, Elizabeth would be sent to a school near their home to prepare for a teaching career. At school she excelled in being a creative and talented writer. When she was sixteen, the family funds were gone and the family moved to stay with relatives in Pittsburgh.

It was in Pittsburgh that Elizabeth would be set on a course that would establish her role for a significant portion of her life. The Pittsburgh Dispatch had printed a column which Elizabeth responded to with a fiery rebuttal to the editor. The editor was so impressed with her that he asked her to join the Dispatch, where her first article was on divorce - a rare topic in 19th Century society.

Women newspaper writers in the late 19th Century customarily used pen names, and the editor chose the name "Nellie Bly" for Elizabeth. The name was a misspelling of the title character of a popular Stephen Foster song. Elizabeth earned five dollars a week for her work.
Elizabeth had to fight the prejudices of the day in her job on the newspaper. She wanted to be an investigative reporter, and wrote on the plight of the working women in a series of articles that dealt with the working conditions of female factory workers. She went under cover to make sure her information was accurate, working as a factory girl - then reporting on the low pay, long hours, and firetrap conditions of the building.

However, the newspaper wanter her to write on more traditional topics, such as women's fashion, society, and gardening. Unhappy with the assignments, Elizabeth - at the age of twenty-one - travelled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent. She would spend almost six months reporting on the lives and customs of the Mexican people. She would protest the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticizing the Mexican government, which prompted the Mexican government to threaten her with arrest. She would leave the country, and later these dispatches would be published in book form under the title Six Months in Mexico.

Elizabeth moved to New York City soon after her return from Mexico in the hopes of securing a job as a serious journalist and investigative reporter, but soon discovered that the New York papers did not want to hire a female journalist. She turned that fact itself into an "expose'" story, selling it to her former employers in Pittsburg. Eventually she was able to arrange an interview with the managing editor of the New York World, John Cockerill, and the owner, Joseph Pulitzer.

After being hired by the World, she quickly conceived of an idea to have herself admitted to the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island, which was New York's insane asylum for the poor, by feigning mental illness. Her purpose was to discover the truth behind reports of abuses by the institution - which included physical and mental abuse by the staff, vermin-infested food, and admittance of individuals who were physically ill, but not mentally ill. She said:

"Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell's Island? I said I could and I would. And I did."
Her experience became more horrifying after she dropped her insanity act. The doctors and nurses refused to believe her. After ten days in the asylum, Elizabeth was removed - through prior arrangement with the World - by a lawyer from the newspaper. The resulting stories led to reforms at the asylum, and a permanent position on the World, as well as a book: Ten Days in a Mad-House.

Elizabeth's greatest fame, however, came from a well-publicized effort to beat the record of Jules Verne's fictional character, Phineas Fogg, in Verne's book Around the World in Eighty Days.

In a trip financed by the New York World, she would leave New York on November 14, 1889, beginning a 24,899-mile journey that would take her around the world. She cabled her observations to the World almost every day, and travelled by a variety of methods, including steamer, train, horseback, and rickshaw. While in France she paused in her trip long enough to interview Jules Verne. Near the Suez Canal, she would share her experience with her readers:

"Before the boat anchored the men armed themselves with canes, to keep off the beggars they said; and the women carried parasols for the same purpose. I had neither stick nor umbrella with me, and refused all offers to accept one for this occasion, having an idea, probably a wrong one, that a stick beats more ugliness into a person than it ever beats out."
The last leg of her trip - across the continental United States - was on a special Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway train, the Miss Nelie Bly Special, which made the San Francisco to Chicago leg of the journey with a new speed record: 2,577 miles in only 69 hours, average 37 miles per hour.

New York was waiting on January 25, 1890, as - seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes, and fourteen seconds after her departure - Elizabeth arrived home, three days ahead of her planned schedule of a 75-day trip around the world.

"I was told when we were almost home to jump to the platorm the moment the train stopped at Jersey City, for that made my time around the world. The station was packed with thousands of people, and the moment I landed on the platform, one yell went up from them, and the cannons at the Battery and Fort Greene boomed out the news of my arrival. I took off my cap and wanted to yell with the crowd, not because I had gone around the world in seventy-two days, but because I was home again."
She was greeted with fireworks, parades, and bands, and had been responsible for a huge increase in sales of the World. She was catapulted - for a time - into the world's spotlight. A book she published about her adventures, Around the World in 72 Days, was successful. But, while she felt she was due a bonus from the World for her accomplishments, none was forth coming and she would become disillusioned with her employers.

In 1894, Elizabeth would marry millionaire industrialist Robert Seaman, who was 72 years old - and 42 years her senior. She would retire from journalism, and become the president of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company. By the time her husband died in 1904, she had become one of the leading female industrialists of the early twentieth century. Embezzlement by her employees would eventually cause her company to fail, and she would have to go back to journalism, where she reported on the suffragette convention in 1913 and was sent overseas to do stories on the Eastern Front in World War I.

She would die from pneumonia at the age of 57 on January 27, 1922, at St. Mark's Hospital in New York City, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.

Elizabeth "Nellie Bly" Cochran Seaman would leave behind a legacy of determination, creativity, and inspiration for women in the 19th Century. As she once said:

"If you want to do it you can do it. The question is, do you want to do it?"
Ann Donegan Johnson: The Value of Fairness: The Story of Nellie Bly (Juvenile Section)
Bonnie Christensen: The Daring Nellie Bly: America's Star Reporter (Juvenile Section)
01. Portrait: Library of Congress
02. American Journal of Psychiatry: Nelly Practices Insanity
03. Ten Days in an Asylum: Library of Congress
04. Nellie Bly in Travelling Outfit
05. Victorian Trading Card: Nelly Bly Waving Goodbye