|Elizabeth Jane Cochran|
Elizabeth Cochran, “Nellie Bly”
|Born||Elizabeth Jane Cochran
May 5, 1864
Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||January 27, 1922
New York City, New York, United States
|Occupation||Journalist, novelist, inventor|
|Spouse(s)||Robert Seaman (m. 1895â€“1904)|
|Awards||National Women’s Hall of Fame (1998)|
After her marriage, Bly used the name “Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman” as seen in the signatures on patents she filed.
I took upon myself to enact the part of a poor, unfortunate crazy girl, and felt it my duty not to shirk any of the disagreeable results that should follow.
On the wagon sped, and I, as well as my comrades, gave a despairing farewell glance at freedom as we came in sight of the long stone buildings.
What a mysterious thing madness is. I have watched patients whose lips are forever sealed in a perpetual silence. They live, breathe, eat; the human form is there, but that something, which the body can live without, but which cannot exist without the body, was missing.
All the asylum clothing is made by the patients, but sewing does not employ one's mind. After several months' confinement the thoughts of the busy world grow faint, and all the poor prisoners can do is to sit and ponder over their hopeless fate.
Even that was all consumed after two days, and the patients had to try to choke down fresh fish, just boiled in water, without salt, pepper or butter; mutton, beef, and potatoes without the faintest seasoning.
I had looked forward so eagerly to leaving the horrible place, yet when my release came and I knew that God's sunlight was to be free for me again, there was a certain pain in leaving.
I always had a desire to know asylum life more thoroughly – a desire to be convinced that the most helpless of God's creatures, the insane, were cared for kindly and properly.
I shuddered to think how completely the insane were in the power of their keepers, and how one could weep and plead for release, and all of no avail, if the keepers were so minded.
I hardly expected the grand jury to sustain me, after they saw everything different from what it had been while I was there. Yet they did, and their report to the court advises all the changes made that I had proposed.
I had, toward the last, been shut off from all visitors, and so when the lawyer, Peter A. Hendricks, came and told me that friends of mine were willing to take charge of me if I would rather be with them than in the asylum, I was only too glad to give my consent.
They were being driven to a prison, through no fault of their own, in all probability for life. In comparison, how much easier it would be to walk to the gallows than to this tomb of living horrors!
I had never been near insane persons before in my life, and had not the faintest idea of what their actions were like.
Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell's Island? I said I could and I would. And I did.
How can a doctor judge a woman's sanity by merely bidding her good morning and refusing to hear her pleas for release? Even the sick ones know it is useless to say anything, for the answer will be that it is their imagination.
In our short walks we passed the kitchen where food was prepared for the nurses and doctors. There we got glimpses of melons and grapes and all kinds of fruits, beautiful white bread and nice meats, and the hungry feeling would be increased tenfold.
I always made a point of telling the doctors I was sane, and asking to be released, but the more I endeavored to assure them of my sanity, the more they doubted it.
People in the world can never imagine the length of days to those in asylums. They seemed never ending, and we welcomed any event that might give us something to think about as well as talk of.
I have watched patients stand and gaze longingly toward the city they in all likelihood will never enter again. It means liberty and life; it seems so near, and yet heaven is not further from hell.
It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.