What Everyone Should Know About Nellie Bly

What Everyone Should Know is a bi-weekly column on women’s history.This article has been cross-posted.

Elizabeth Jane Cochran, a.k.a Nellie Bly (1864-1922)

My interest in women’s history was sparked at a young age by the story of one woman: Nellie Bly. I was eleven years old when I found her story in the children’s literature section of my local library. I had been browsing through the collection of choose-your-own-ending books (to which I was addicted) when I stumbled across a slim volume that had been mis-shelved. A smart-looking woman graced the cover wearing a Victorian shirtwaist and a tidy bun. I flipped it over and scanned the back. The woman on the front had apparently been a reporter, and according to the blurb had single-handedly changed the institution of reporting through her radical methodology. She would do anything to find the real story. My curiosity was piqued and the book went into the stack I checked out that day; the rest, as they say, is history.

Elizabeth Jane Cochran was born in 1864, and was christened that year in a pink gown, which gained her notoriety at an early age, and the eternal nickname, “Pink.” She was born into a comfortable existence provided by her father, a judge, and her mother. Her father died when she was six years old, leaving her family without a will and thus destitute; her mother remarried quickly, per the custom of the time. Cochran’s step-father turned out to be abusive. These developments in her childhood led her to be outspoken and strident in her beliefs, skills that served her well in her career choice, but which would cause her heartache in life because of her gender and the expectations of women at the time.

At the tender age of 18, young Elizabeth Cochran wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch in response to an article she had read that she considered offensive and denigrating toward women. She was already a women’s rights activist, and signed the letter “Lonely Orphan Girl.” The editor, George Madden, was so impressed with the quality of the letter that he published it and asked the girl to step forward. The next day she did, and in so doing secured her first job as a reporter. The year was 1882, and women were not a common feature of newsrooms at all. In fact, it was so uncommon that Mr. Madden and Ms. Cochran decided upon a pen name for her—Nellie Bly, from a 35 year old Stephen Collins Foster song. Continue reading

Shorter DNC Memo: Lies, Damned Lies, & Statistics

The Confluence has the preliminaries on the DNC Memo/hit job on Sarah Palin, but I wanted to take a closer look for those who are interested in that kind of rhetorical analysis. Boston Boomer is right that what we are seeing is reaction-formation, and this explains the rising media chorus that has been Palin coverage for three solid days now. A couple of things in particular are worth pointing out, because the points destroy the mythology the left has built around the Democratic party and its current leadership. Dismantling that mythology is essential.

The first issue is this little list that heads up the memo:

Memoir is Palin’s payback to McCain campaign [New York Times]
‘Going Rogue’ reignites Palin divide, even in her hometown [CNN]
McCain official: Palin claim ‘one hundred percent untrue’ [CNN.com]
McCain campaign emails contradict Palin’s “Going Rogue”‘ [Huffington Post]
McCain adviser denies Palin’s claim that she granted Couric interview because she felt sorry for her [Washington Post.com]
In ‘Going Rogue,’ Sarah Palin goes for redemption — and revenge [LA Times]
Sarah Palin ‘bottled up’ no more: Lid off [The Swamp]
Sarah Palin, the GOP’s blessing and curse [LA Times]
McCain campaign staffers: Sarah Palin’s book “all fiction” [Seattle PI]
For Palin, Reality Goes Rogue [Boston Globe]
Coulter: Payback Time for Palin vs. McCain [CBSnews.com]
Sarah Palin Takes Aim at McCain Staffers in Upcoming Book [ABCnews.com]
Sarah Palin is an insider playing a rogue [CNN]
Palin in book: McCain aides kept me ‘bottled up’ [USA Today]
How do you solve a problem like Sarah? [Newsweek]

This is the chorus of (mostly) liberal news voices attacking Palin, and the DNC puts it up front as evidence of their claims against Palin, which are outlined in the introductory remarks. Coulter’s article is obviously thrown in there to suggest balance, which is ironic enough in and of itself. But the rest of those stories are the result of talking points disseminated by the DNC and Obama administration officials to the media, and now making their rounds via this memo to local media outlets in markets around her book tour, representing a concerted attack on her character. Half of those stories were probably generated after direct contact with administration officials. Where have we seen this tactic employed before? Continue reading

Hit & Run

This post will be brief. I just couldn’t help but take a minute to note the rising paranoid chorus against Palin. She must have hit it out of the park on Oprah or something, because I haven’t seen this kind of hysteria coming from the beltway since they learned that Hillary Clinton was coming to Washington. Remember that? I documented it for the historical record here.

Yesterday I was treated to Andrew Sullivan’s liveblogging of the event. The media’s resident alien pearl-clutcher is so spooked by the Palin phenomenon that he thought a one hour appearance on a show with tanking rating in the middle of the afternoon was worthy of minute-by-minute analysis. His hypothesis? Palin sees politics as an extension of beauty contests. Like, duh. So do I. That’s because politics is filled with the same kind of vapid, intellectually and morally stilted people who populate the beauty contest circuit.

After that I was treated to headlines that informed me of the following:

  • Palin is onstage but off message (NYT)
  • 59% of Americans think Palin is unqualified to be President (ABC News)
  • 1 in four Americans hate Palin (CBS News)
  • Matthew Continetti (Washinton Post) is concerned that Palin’s “Rogue tactic” may work

Continue reading

A Year Later, No One Really Gets What PUMAs Were Talking About

Well, I was happy to see this post by Dr. Socks, though the breakdown in comments blows chunks. In this post, Vi uses the last minute abortion amendment to show how some Democratic pro-choicers are finally “getting” what PUMA was all about, and I suppose in some ways that’s true. I started this blog because I wanted to be part of the conversation that was taking place because of PUMA, and I had something important I wanted to contribute first: a discussion about what Democrats have really done to protect a woman’s right to choose. If you’ll recall, it was a four part series called The Specter of Roe v. Wade (all four parts can be accessed from that post). In it, I found that Democrats had become increasingly willing to throw this issue under the bus even as they continued to use it as a weapon to club women over the head in an attempt to demand their loyalty.

That loyalty was short-sighted, and the abortion amendment proves it. Abortion, beginning in 2013, will become even more difficult to obtain.  Abortion clinics have been the target of pro-life activism; meanwhile, 87% of insurance policies cover abortion services. That will change dramatically as a result of this amendment. In one fell swoop, and without even having to work for it, pro-life politicians have managed to do to the insurance industry what Operation Rescue spent 20 years doing to abortion service providers and their clinics. Non-PUMA liberal women can blame themselves for this new development. I certainly do.

dark pumaBecause PUMAs saw it, and they talked about it. They knew this was a possibility. They could well see that the Democratic party had been succumbing to the authoritarianism that already permeated the Republican party, and their voices were shouted down, I contend because they were the voices of women and because they were the voices of reason coming from women. In the rising misogyny of the ’08 election, women who would not toe the party line were attacked and vilified by the party that said it was the party of women. Still some women could not see it. I hope they see it today, and I hope this vote leads to an even bigger backlash against Democrats. They have shown they will not be held accountable by their constituencies. They do not work for us, and they haven’t for some time.

Continue reading