Friday, November 22, 2013

Proof Of The First Thanksgiving

Before the arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans the Wampanoag people gave thanks, feasts, and ceremonies for the Creator's gifts of a successful harvest, hope for a good growing season in the spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child.

In 1621, after a year of sickness and scarcity the Pilgrims along with the Wampanoag tribe, gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty with feasting and celebration.  To these people of strong Christian faith this was not merely a feast, but a joyous outpouring of gratitude.  E.W. Winslow, a Pilgrim and later Governor of New England who had lost his wife to the elements in the new land, wrote a letter to his friend in England saying, "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty...These things I thought good to let you understand that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favourable with us."

In 1622, Winslow's letter was printed in a pamphlet that historians commonly call Mourt's Relation. Winslow's and William Bradford's accounts were written between November 1620 and November 1621. They described in detail what happened from the landing of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod, their exploring and eventual settling at Plymouth, to their relations with the surrounding Indians, up to the first Thanksgiving and the arrival of the ship Fortune.  Mourt's Relations was first published in London in 1622 by George Morton. This publication of the first Thanksgiving was lost during the Colonial period and rediscovered in Philadelphia around 1820.  Because of Winslow's letter historians have long contended that it was the first Thanksgiving celebrated in America.

The holiday changed as the strictly held customs of the Puritans of the 17th century evolved into the 18th century's more cosmopolitan New Englander.  By the 1700's the emotional significance of family united around a dinner table over shadowed the civil and religious importance of Thanksgiving.  As the people began to migrate westward New England's holiday traditions spread to the rest of the nation.  It was not until 1941, under the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Congress established the 4th Thursday of November as the national Thanksgiving holiday.

We at National Write Your Congressman wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving 2013.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Veterans Day - Wounded Warrior Project

On this Veteran's Day, I have chosen to honor Wounded Warrior Project and congratulate them on their 10th Anniversary of service to our nation's wounded servicemen and women.

Almost everyone remembers where they were when our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. In the midst of overwhelming tragedy, loss of life, and all the ensuing fear and chaos many brave men and women stepped forward to join those who were already serving in the United States military to join the fight against terrorism.

As the war progressed several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, started providing backpacks with various comfort items to wounded service members. This was the beginning of the Wounded Warrior Project.  Over the last 10 years, WWP has developed 19 programs and services and provided assistance to injured service members with their visible and invisible injuries, like post-tramatic stress disorder (PTSD), at no cost to the warrior. They currently have more than 35,000 warriors and 4,100 family members registered with access to WWP's "high-touch" and personalized services.

While a number of veterans' service organizations assist post 9.11 veterans with the challenges of today, Wounded Warrior Project offers programs to help members with both their immediate and long-term needs. The programs and services range from mental health, economic needs, physical health and wellness to engagement with other warriors. The programs help injured service members work through more immediate challenges and establish a foundation for a lifetime of success.

WWP has also launched services and pilot programs that address some of the toughest issues surrounding long-term care for the most severely injured. The Independence Program works with local rehabilitative service providers to assist profoundly injured warriors in regaining the ability to perform the types of daily tasks that most people take for granted. The Long Term Support Program is in a pilot phase and was crafted to ensure that the most severely injured warriors will have access to quality care after their family member/care giver is no longer able to provide care.

The mission of Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP's purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the publics' aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. 

I became a member of the "Advanced Guard" of WWP two years ago, and I have found it to be an honest and honorable group who want nothing more than to just help our wounded servicemen and women.  If you are looking for a truly service-oriented organization to contribute to, please consider Wounded Warrior Project.  To learn more, visit  You can also "Like" their Facebook page and receive updates and inspiring stories at


Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Times Have Changed - Free Speech Was Tested and Lost

How times have changed, and for the better...

After World War II there was a period called the "Cold War" between the United States and the Communist Soviet Union.  It was also a time in the United States when citizen's First Amendment Rights were questioned and stepped upon.

There was a  fear that the "Reds" were going to take over the United States.  Legislators grew concerned that the movie industry could serve as a source of subversive propaganda and spread the idea of Communism.  They established the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC as it was known.

In October of 1947, more than 40 people with connections to the movie industry received subpoenas to appear before HUAC on suspicion of holding communist loyalties. Prominent Hollywood witnesses were grilled and asked bluntly, "Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"  Maybe out of patriotism or fear, some witnesses, including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and studio executives Walt Disney and Jack Warner, gave the committee names of colleagues they suspected of being communists.

There was, however, a group called "The Hollywood Ten" who resisted, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights.  The Ten included Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ormitz, Robert Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. They refused to cooperate with the investigation by denouncing the HUAC anti-communist hearings as an outrageous violation and demanding they had the right to belong to any political organization they chose.  The Ten were cited for contempt of Congress.  Each man was found guilty and sentenced to spend a year in prison and pay $1,000 fine.  While in prison, Edward Dmytryk decided to cooperate with the government.  In 1951, he testified at the HUAC hearing and provided the names of more than 20 industry colleagues he claimed were communists.

A more lasting punishment came as a result of the movie industry blacklist.  Studio executives did not want their business to be associated with radical politics in the minds of the movie-going public, and agreed that they would not employ the Hollywood Ten or anyone else suspected of being affiliated with the Communist Party. The motion picture industry blacklist grew steadily as Congress continued its investigations into the 1950's. The blacklist finally ended in the 1960's.

The Hollywood Ten were considered controversial at the time they launched their protests. Some viewed their punishment as justified, while others viewed them as heroic figures who spoke out against the abuses of the "Red Scare," and in defense of the U. S. Constitution.

The horror of this period in time was the fact that people's lives were destroyed out of fear with no evidence other than the word of another person who was in fear for his life and pursuit of happiness being taken away by the very government that was supposed to protect their rights.

Free Speech was tested, and it lost.

The attached video of the "Hollywood Ten 1950" is an important accounting of their persecution, and relevant to our rights as American Citizens today.

Friday, September 27, 2013


I found this article from September of 2012.  It seemed timely with all the wars, hate, and attacks on innocent people that are growing daily in our world. The last paragraph sums it all up. We are, after all, human beings, and everyone should be treated with dignity regardless of their beliefs, nationalities, station in life, or religion.  

More than 69 years after they crashed in Germany, the remains of five British airmen have been recovered and will receive a proper burial. The Royal Air Force members disappeared in April 1943 during a raid on a weapons factory in German-occupied Czechoslovakia.
The remains of five British airmen who crashed in Germany during World War II have been discovered near Mannheim, researchers announced on Friday. Their bomber went down with seven men aboard during a raid on a Czech arms factory in April 1943. German soldiers recovered two of the bodies from the wreckage shortly thereafter, but five of the Royal Air Force members remained missing until last week. The British Air Ministry, which conducted an exhaustive search for the men after the war, had concluded that they likely ditched in the sea.
Pilot Alex Bone and his crewmates took off from Lincolnshire, England, 69 years ago in an Avro Lancaster, the heavy bomber used by the RAF in the skies over Europe during World War II. Of the 327 bombers that set out in April 1943 to attack a munitions plant in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, 36 would never make it back to their base—including Bone’s plane. It is believed that he and his crew battled German antiaircraft fire before plunging into a field outside Laumersheim in southwestern Germany.
As it searched in vain for the missing crew in the years following World War II, the British Air Ministry had no idea that German troops had already buried two of the men in Mannheim. Meanwhile, a local teenager named Peter Menges had witnessed the fiery crash and knew the exact whereabouts of the wrecked Lancaster. Decades later, Menges, now 83, joined forces with Uwe Benkel, a health insurance clerk who moonlights as a military history researcher and has helped recover more than 100 planes. Last year, for instance, Benkel unearthed the remains of another British crew near the German village of Schwanheim.
After using metal detectors and ground-penetrating radar to confirm the crash site near Laumersheim, Benkel and his team uncovered the Lancaster bomber’s engine and landing gear, along with hundreds of bone fragments thought to be the remains of the missing men. Relatives have been notified and plans are being made to bury the men in a shared coffin at Germany’s Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
Benkel told British news sources that area residents wondered why he was searching for former enemies who had bombed German cities. “It doesn’t make a difference if they are German or British,” he told The Telegraph. “They were young men who fought and died for their country for which they deserve a proper burial in a cemetery.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Labor Day-The Celebraton of Workers and Their Achievements

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during American labor's worst times.  In the late 1800s at the height of the Industrial Revolution and a series of depressions that had affected the American economy throughout the 19th Century, the average American worked 12 hour days and seven days a week to barely eke out a basic living.  Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 and 6 worked in mills, factories and mines across the country earning a fraction of their adult counterparts wages.  People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

In order to understand how Americans reached this point you need to see what the economy was experiencing at the time.  This is a brief history of the economy of the 1800s.

Panic of 1819

  • The first major American depression, the Panic of 1819 was rooted to some extent in economic problems reaching back to the war of 1812.
  • It was triggered by a collapse in cotton prices. A contraction in credit coincided with the problems in the cotton market, and the young American economy was severely affected.
  • Banks were forced to call in loans, and foreclosures of farms and bank failures resulted.
  • The Panic of 1819 lasted until 1821.
  • The effects were felt most in the west and south. Bitterness about the economic hardships resonated for years and led to the resentment that helped Andrew Jackson solidify his political base throughout the 1820s.
  • Besides exacerbating sectional animosity, the Panic of 1819 also made many Americans realize the importance of politics and government policy in their lives. 

    Panic of 1837

  • The Panic of 1837 was triggered by a combination of factors including the failure of a wheat crop, a collapse in cotton prices, economic problems in Britain, rapid speculation in land, and problems resulting from the variety of currency in circulation.
  • It was the second-longest American depression, with effects lasting roughly six years, until 1843.
  • The panic had a devastating impact. A number of brokerage firms in New York failed, and at least one New York City bank president committed suicide. As the effect rippled across the nation, a number of state-chartered banks also failed. The nascent labor union movement was effectively stopped, as the price of labor plummeted.
  • The depression caused the collapse of real estate prices. The price of food also collapsed, which was ruinous to farmers and planters who couldn’t get a decent price for their crops. People who lived through the depression following 1837 told stories that would be echoed a century later during The Great Depression.
  • The aftermath of the panic of 1837 led to Martin Van Burens’s failure to secure a second term in the election of 1840. Many blamed the economic hardships on the policies of Andrew Jackson.  Van Buren, who had been Jackson’s vice president, paid the political price.

    Panic of 1857

  • The Panic of 1857 was triggered by the failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, which actually did much of its business as a bank headquartered in New York City. Reckless speculation in railroads led the company into trouble, and the company’s collapse led to a literal panic in the financial district, as crowds of frantic investors clogged the streets around Wall Street.
  • Stock prices plummeted, and more than 900 mercantile firms in New York had to cease operation. By the end of the year the American economy was a shambles.
  • One victim of the Panic of 1857 was a future Civil War hero and US president, Ulysses S. Grant, who was bankrupted and had to pawn his gold watch to buy Christmas presents.
  • Recovery from the depression began in early 1859.

Panic of 1873

  • The investment firm of Jay Cooke and Company went bankrupt in September 1873 as a result of rampant speculation in railroads. The stock market dropped sharply and caused numerous businesses to fail.
  • The depression caused approximately three million Americans to lose their jobs.
  • The collapse in food prices impacted America's farm economy, causing great poverty in rural America.
  • The depression lasted for five years, until 1878.
  • The Panic of 1873 led to a populist movement that saw the creation of the Greenback Party.

Panic of 1893

  • The depression set off by the Panic of 1893 was the greatest depression America had known, and was only surpassed by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • In early May 1893 the New York stock market dropped sharply, and in late June panic selling caused the stock market to crash.
  • A severe credit crisis resulted, and more than 16,000 businesses had failed by the end of 1893. Included in the failed businesses were 156 railroads and nearly 500 banks.
  • Unemployment spread until one in six American men lost their jobs.
  • The depression inspired "Coxey's Army," a march on Washington of unemployed men. The protesters demanded that the government provide public works jobs. Their leader, Jacob Coxey, was imprisoned for 20 days.
  • The depression caused by the Panic of 1893 lasted for about four years, ending in 1897. 

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. History.  The idea of a "workingmen's holiday," celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.  It was not until 1894 that Labor Day became a federal holiday.

Friday, July 5, 2013

69th Anniversary of D-Day

Jane Booras, of National Write Your Congressman, wrote an article for the "Banner" about Dave and Patti Berry's trip to Normandy, France on the 69th Anniversary of D-Day.  It was such an interesting article, and Dave's photos from the day are so poignant, I felt it should be repeated on our blog.

This week as we celebrate Independence Day, the birthday of our nation, we can’t help but think about the thousands of servicemen and women who have fought and died to keep it free for 237 years.  When we learned that David and Patti Berry were in Normandy, France on the 69th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, and that Dave had taken photographs, we were eager to share his pictures and experiences with you.  All of the photographs on these pages were taken by Dave.  All in all, he shot 1,500 photos that day.  To see the complete collection, go to:

The Invasion of Normandy was the invasion and establishment of Allied forces in Normandy, France, during Operation Overlord in 1944 during World War II. At the time it was the largest amphibious invasion to ever take place.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on June 6th came from Canada, the Free French Forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy.

The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings on five beaches codenamed Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword began and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important being Portsmouth.

Commemorations of the 69th anniversary of D-Day in France this year began with a flag-raising at an American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.  Tourists, many from the U.S. and Britain, gathered in the still morning under a brilliant spring sky to witness the flag-raising amid the neat rows of thousands of white marble crosses and stars of David marking the graves of U.S. servicemen and women killed during the Allied invasion of Normandy that began June 6, 1944.

A full day of ceremonies including fireworks, concerts and marches was planned across Normandy in honor of the 150,000 troops, mainly US, British and Canadian, who risked or gave their lives in the liberation of German-occupied western Europe during World War II.

Around two dozen US veterans, some in their old uniforms pinned with medals, stood and saluted during a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial overlooking Omaha Beach, where a U.S. cemetery holds the remains of over 9,000 Americans who died during the vicious battle to storm the French beach under withering Nazi fire.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower when giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944 said to the troops,  You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

The invasion moved through four stages.  In rapid succession came the landings, the fight to secure the beachhead, the struggle to open a corridor across Normandy, and the storming of Cherbourg.  Allied air power deployed parachute troops as the ships were on their way across the English Channel.  The parachutists, placed behind the German defenses, were in position to undermine resistance.   Two crack American Airborne divisions, the 82nd and 101st, were flown into action by troop carriers.  The 4th Division came ashore and marched up the causeways.  Other American troops collided head on with every kind of beach defense.  Many landing craft were wrecked by mines, underwater obstructions and cannon fire. 

After the beach was secured, heavy armor was brought ashore.  The Allies then fought their way inland, securing roads.  Allied air power blasted out bridges on all German supply lines.  A path was cleared across Normandy.  It was General Omar Bradley, by land, who led the storming of Cherbourg securing the seaport.

“Someone asked if I enjoyed the day.  I can’t say that ‘enjoyed’ is the right word.  But as another visitor explained, ‘It was stirring.’  I also found myself asking, ‘What am I doing to honor their memory and to make the best possible use of the gifts of life, liberty and freedom that they helped secure for all Americans that day?’” - David Berry

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

4th of July

Ralph Waldo Emerson was inspired to write, "All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."  I believe our Founding Fathers were living their lives by the same sentiment. 

On July 2, 1776, during the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.  The decision prompted John Adams to write to his wife Abigail, "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

John Adams was only off by 2 days on his prediction.  After much debate and revision over the wording explaining the reason for the decision to separate, the Declaration of Independence was completed and signed July 4, 1776.  Thus making July the 4th the day Americans celebrate this great country's independence.

National Write Your Congressman would like to wish you a blessed and happy 4th of July.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Amazing Nellie Bly - Part Four

What next for this amazing woman...

After a few years of enjoying her celebrity Nellie went back to doing what she did best, championing the downtrodden.  The United States was experiencing an economic crisis that became the depression of 1893.  Nellie covered the stories where strikers were fighting their companies nationwide.  She got the stories from both sides, but firmly backed the strikers.

In 1895, at the age of 31, Nellie married millionaire manufacturer Robert Seaman, who was 40 years older than she.  The company manufactured containers such as milk cans and boilers.  In 1904 Nellie's husband passed away, and she became the President of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company.  That same year Nellie took a trip to Europe where she saw glycerin containers made of steel.  "I determined to make steel containers for the American trade."  Within a year Nellie patented her own metal barrel.

After returning to the U.S. Nellie went to work on her new idea.  "My first experiment leaked and the second was defective because the solder gave way, and then I brazed them with the result that the liquid inside was ruined by the brazing metal.  I finally worked out the steel package to perfection, patented the design, put it on the market and taught the American public to use the steel barrel."  Nellie proudly claimed, "I am the only manufacturer in the country who can produce a certain type of steel barrel for which there is an immense demand at present for the transportation of oil, gasoline, and other liquids."  Nellie's 40-gallon barrel was the model for the 55-gallon oil drum still in use today.

Nellie's company experienced huge success employing 1,500 and could produce 1,000 steel barrels daily, but then, because of embezzlement by employees and charges of fraud on their part,  it all ended in a bitterly contested bankruptcy. 

World War I had broken out, and Nellie returned to her roots.  She signed on as a reporter covering the war in Europe.  She went to the front lines and was the first female reporter to do so.  In on-the-spot news stories she wrote, "One motionless creature had his cap on his head.  Great black circles were around his sunken eyes.  Black hollows were around his nose and his ears were black.  Near him, completely covered by his coat, was a form.  Occasionally it shivered convulsively.  That was all.  Nearest us was another lying on his face.  He never moved.  Perhaps he was dead.  The soldier was in a shed with other cholera victims.  Human creatures they were, lying there in a manner our health authorities would prohibit for hogs or the meanest beasts.  I staggered out into the muddy road.  I would rather look on guns and hear the cutting of the air by a shot that brought kinder death."

While covering the war in Hungary a policeman mistook Nellie for a British spy.  The police ignored her claims that she was an American reporter until a translator arrived.  "I am Dr. Friedman", he announced. "You are English, they say."  "I am Nellie Bly of New York," I answered.  Both hands flew up above his head.  'My God!  Nellie Bly,' he cried excitedly.  "The police had cleared a space around us.  Their mouths were not open but their eyes were.  They were speechless, dumbfounded.  My new friend began to talk rapidly to them.  They listened aghast.  'I have told them every child seven years old in America knows Nellie Bly,' he said aside to me."

Safely back in the United States the year was 1913.  Nellie went straight to work covering the Woman's Suffrage Parade.  Her headline for the parade story was "Suffragists Are Men's Superiors," but she also correctly predicted in the story that it would be 1920 before women would win the vote.

In 1916 Nellie was given a baby boy whose mother requested Nellie look after him and see that he was adopted.   The child, being illegitimate and half Japanese, made him difficult to place.  He spent the next six years in an orphanage run by the Church For All Nations in Manhattan.  The plight of orphaned children became part of her ongoing efforts to improve the social organizations of the day.

In 1922 Nellie Bly, Elizabeth Jane Cochrane Seaman, at the age of 57 was admitted to St. Mark's Hospital in New York City where she died of pneumonia.  The World wrote, "Nellie Bly was THE BEST REPORTER IN AMERICA and that is saying a good deal."  She is buried in a modest grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

I will end where I began, in complete awe of this woman and her accomplishments during a time when a woman's place was at home and not even allowed to vote.  Where did she find the courage and unyielding demand to be seen as an equal, a person rather than a woman?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Amazing Nellie Bly - Part Three

"In spite of the assurance that I would be released in a few days, my heart gave a sharp twinge.  Pronounced insane by four expert doctors and shut up behind the unmerciful bolts of a madhouse was an uncomfortable position."  In spite of what she had experienced, or in her case, because of the rush she experienced, Nellie was eager for her next exciting story.

In 1873, Jules Verne published a novel called Around the World in 80 Days.  In his book a fictional hero named Phileas Fogg circled the world on a bet.  No real person had attempted this huge and dangerous feat.  The year was now 1889 and Nellie was bored and seeking adventure, so she proposed that she attempt it as a publicity stunt for the The World.  The paper's business manager told her that it would be better to send a man because he would not need a chaperon or as much luggage.  Incensed, Nellie shot back, "Very well.  Start the man, and I will start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him."  She got the assignment.

At 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days notice, Nellie now only 25 years old boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line, and began her 24,899 mile journey.  All she brought with her was the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials.  She carried most of her money in a bag tied around her neck.

Communications in 1889 were made possible by efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph.  Only short messages could be sent.  Her entire stories of her progress and adventures still had to be mailed which took several weeks.  The World, in order to keep interest up between reports, organized a "Nellie Bly Guessing Match" in which readers were asked to estimate her arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize being a free trip to Europe and spending money for the trip.  Newspaper sales soared while people in New York and the rest of the country were keeping track of Nellie Bly's whereabouts.

Nellie went through England, France, Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.  While in France Nellie met Jules Verne and his wife.  His wife commented afterwards, "She is trim, energetic, and strong.  I believe, Jules, that she will make your heroes look foolish."  It is said that Jules agreed and laughed.

During her travels using steamships and existing railroad systems, she experienced some setbacks particularly in Asia .  During these stops she visited a leper colony in China and bought a monkey in Singapore.

On the returning trip headed for San Francisco on the White Star Line ship Oceanic she was two days behind the schedule she had set for herself because of rough weather while crossing the Pacific.  The World owner, Joseph Pulitzer, chartered a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.  Nellie had circled the world in seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds! 

Nellie Bly was back in New York and a hero.  She had not only set the first record to beat, but the year was 1890, and she did it almost completely unchaperoned.  The overcoat she had worn during the trip became her trademark.  Nellie was now not only a celebrated journalist, but a celebrated adventurer.

What next for this amazing woman?

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Amazing Nellie Bly - Part Two

In 1887, four months after returning from Mexico, Nellie talked her way into Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper in New York City,  and at only 23 years of age accepted an assignment to go undercover into the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island posing as a mentally ill girl.  The paper promised to get her out after ten days.

The first thing she had to do was convince the doctors at the asylum that she was truly insane.  After practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror she checked into a boardinghouse.  Nellie refused to go to bed, telling the boarders that she was afraid of them and that they looked crazy.  By the next morning they were convinced that she was the crazy one and called the police.  She was taken to a courtroom and pretended to have amnesia.  The judge was convinced Nellie had been drugged.  After this, she was examined by several doctors who all agreed that she was most assuredly insane.  "Positively demented," said one, "I consider it a hopeless case.  She needs to be put where someone will take care of her."  The head of the insane pavilion at Bellevue Hospital pronounced her "undoubtedly insane."  The case of the "pretty crazy girl" attracted media attention.  "Who Is This Insane Girl?" asked the New York Sun.  The New York Times wrote of the "mysterious waif with the wild haunted look in her eyes," and her desperate cry, "I can't remember I can't remember!"

Nellie experienced all the horrors of the asylum first hand.  The food consisted of gruel broth, spoiled beef, bread that was really just dried dough, and dirty undrinkable water.  The dangerous patients were tied together with ropes.  Nellie witnessed one gray haired woman being grabbed and dragged by the hair as she shrieked and pleaded from the room, "For God's sake, ladies, don't let them beat me."   All the patients were made to sit for much of the day on hard benches with no protection from the cold.   Waste was all around the eating areas.  Rats crawled freely throughout the hospital.  The bath water was freezing cold.  Patients were treated obnoxiously and abusively by nurses telling them to shut up and beating then if they did not.

Nellie spoke with many of her fellow patients and was convinced that some were as sane as she was.  She wrote, "What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment?  Here is a class of women sent to be cured.  I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. on a straight-back bench, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane.  Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck."  Nellie also wrote of bath time, "My teeth chattered and my limbs were numb with cold.  Suddenly, I got three buckets of ice cold water dumped over my head. One in my eyes, nose and mouth."

At the end of the ten days an attorney for the newspaper came and got Nellie released from the asylum at The World's behest.  Her reporting, which was later published in book form titled "Ten Days in a Mad House," brought Nellie her lasting fame.  It also caused embarrassment to the physicians and staff of the hospital who would try to explain how so many professionals had been fooled.  A grand jury launched its own investigation into conditions at the asylum, and asked Nellie to assist.  The jury's report recommended the changes she had proposed, and its call for increased funds for care of the insane prompted an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections.  They also made sure the future examinations were more thorough so that only the seriously ill actually went to the asylum.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Amazing Nellie Bly - Part One

Nellie Bly's life was so full and interesting I have decided to write a series of blogs about her.  I will cover her early life, her life as a reporter and author, and her life as an inventor and business woman.  I first discovered Nellie when I was researching the oil industry for the blog, but we will get to that part later.

Elizabeth  Jane Cochran, aka Nellie Bly,  was born May 5, 1864.  Very few people recognize her name today, but 100 years ago every American knew who Nellie Bly was.  She was named to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 for many good reasons.  Nellie was an independent and strong woman for the times she lived in.  Women did not even have the right to vote until just two years before her death.

Elizabeth Jane was born in Burrell Township, Pennsylvania.  Her father taught her and her siblings the virtues of hard work and determination by example.  He started as a modest mill laborer and eventually bought the local mill and most of the land surrounding his family's farmhouse.

When Elizabeth became a teenager she wanted to portray herself as more sophisticated, so she dropped her nickname, "Pinky", and added an "e" to the end of her last name spelling it, Cochrane.  After just one year of boarding school she was forced to withdraw because of a lack of money.

In 1880, Elizabeth and her family moved to Pittsburgh.  An aggressive sexually discriminative column against working women appeared in the Pittsburgh Dispatch prompting her to write a blistering rebuttal to the editor with the pen name "Lonely Orphan Girl."  The editor was so impressed with the writer's earnestness and spirit that he asked the "man" who wrote the letter to join the paper.  When she showed up he refused to give her the job. Using her "push-and-get there" attitude and what her father had taught her, she persuaded him to change his mind.  Female newspaper writers at that time customarily used pen names, and for Elizabeth the editor chose "Nellie Bly" from the title character in a popular song by Stephen Foster.

As a writer for the Dispatch, Nellie focused her early work on the plight of working women, writing a series of investigative articles on female factory workers.  Editorial pressures soon pushed her to the "women's pages" to cover fashion, society, and gardening which were the usual assignments for female journalists of the day.

There are many things that single Nellie out as unusually independent to the times for me starting with this...Dissatisfied with the duties of the women's pages, Nellie took the initiative and traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent.  The year was 1885, and she was only 21.  Nellie spent the next half year reporting the lives and customs of the Mexican people.  Her dispatches were later published in a book called "Six Months in Mexico."  In one of her reports she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticizing the Mexican government and then dictator, Porfirio Diaz.  When Mexican authorities learned of her report, they threatened her with arrest prompting her to leave the country.  Safely home she denounced Diaz as a tyrannical czar suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Meanings Behind The Folding of The Flag

Have you ever wondered what the United States Flag draped across a soldiers coffin really means?  Here is how to understand the flag that laid upon it and is surrendered to so many widows and widowers: Do you know that at military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?  Have you ever noticed that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag 13 times?  The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life. The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world. The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance. The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, 'Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.' The 6th fold is for where people's hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America , and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all. The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.. The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day. The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded. The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born. The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their Nations motto, 'In God We Trust.' After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today. There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. 

I personally did not know what the folds stood for.  Be sure and share this with all Americans.  We need to understand our history and symbolisms.

Thank you, Sarah Hirz, for suggesting this subject for the blog.