Nellie Bly was a female journalist in the late 1800’s. At the time, female journalists wrote about the home and society gatherings. Nellie set a new standard for investigative journalism, often writing about the plight of working women of her day. One of her assignments was to pretend to be insane and get herself committed to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island in New York. She spent ten days locked away and the result was this book. In it she exposes the substandard conditions and brutal treatment of the women who were incarcerated there. Nellie’s book led to a grand jury investigation of the facility and the eventual improvement of conditions.
This book is a relatively short read and the edition I have included two articles at the end which she wrote about working conditions of women. Though the subject matter is very unpleasant, I nevertheless enjoyed the book. I found it shocking how easily the doctors she encountered wrote her off as insane. Our current mental health system is far from perfect, but in comparison to what she describes, has improved immensely. This would be a good choice for history or journalism buffs alike.
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