Nellie Bly as an inspiration …

Last night, J and I started watching the David Tennant version of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’.

It’s a complete romp, and very enjoyable for that, ideal Sunday night viewing.

It’s been years since I read the book, but I don’t really remember Passepartout’s ethnicity, or that there was a female journalist called Abigail Fix-Fortescue involved, but it doesn’t matter, it’s 45 minutes of well made fun.

The Abigail Fix-Fortescue character is clearly inspired by the exploits of Nellie Bly and  Elizabeth Bisland both of whom competed in 1889 to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional record, however while both Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were American, the Abigail Fix-Fortescue character is clearly English.

J had never heard of Nellie Bly, and while I told Nellie’s story the discussion moved onto Louisa M. Allcott and the fictional Harriet Stackpole in Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady.

In England in the 1880’s the idea of a female journalist, especially an adventurous female journalist would be almost impossible to imagine, but clearly not so in America.

Why so?

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the number of middle class men died in the American Civil War was sufficient to allow women to fill some of the roles formerly dominated by name, mucj as happened in Britain after the First World War.

It’s an interesting idea and certainly the trope of the determined female reporter seems to go back further in the USA than the UK …


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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