The newspaper industry in the 1800s wasn’t fair. Most editors declared that it was too rough a pursuit for women, and relegated the few female reporters to writing about recent social events and the hair styles of celebrities. Only a few women managed to land in-depth reporting jobs, or a regular column in a newspaper or magazine. Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were two of those women.
Pennsylvania-born Nellie Bly wrote her first articles for a smaller newspaper which allowed her to write investigative articles about the poor, working conditions, and other subjects which most editors found unfit for women. When she went to New York City, she managed to land a job at the World newspaper, where she wrote regular articles which displayed little-known facts about a variety of things to the public which she learned by going undercover throughout the city.
Elizabeth Bisland, born in the south, known for her beauty as well as her writing skills, also found a job in New York after writing for other publications for several years: writing a regular column about recent books for the magazine The Cosmopolitan.
In 1889, to boost declining sales, the World sends Nellie Bly to race around the world. Her goal is to beat the fictional record established in Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days. But only hours after she leaves, the editor of The Cosmopolitan sends Elizabeth Bisland around the world the other way. These two pioneering female journalists set a record against time, fiction, and each other.
80 Days was a very interesting book. Set near the turn of the 19th century, this is a fast-paced historical nonfiction book about two very real, very skilled women pioneering in the world of journalism in a race which fascinated not just the nation, but the world. In addition to narrating the journeys of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, Matthew Goodman provides interesting information about other subjects in the world at the same time, such as conditions of immigrants and the influence of the telegraph. And in the narrations of their journeys, readers learn interesting facts about the world and culture in the nineteenth century. It does not, however, feel as though information is being forced into the text—instead, it flowed naturally and enhanced the text rather than making it dry. Although 80 Days was written for older audiences, I found it to be very interesting, and recommend it to readers twelve and up, especially those who like history and geography.