Bisland v. Bly: A Race Around the World
March 19, 2015 7:07 AM   Subscribe

In 1889, Elizabeth Bisland’s boss sent her on a trip around the world. Her goal: to beat Phileas Fogg’s record of going Around the World in 80 Days. She was not thrilled at the prospect, and even less happy to learn she would be chasing Nellie Bly, who had left that morning on the same journey. But sure enough, she was on a train that evening.

Lots of men had traveled by themselves around the world, both before and after the book, but it was widely assumed women wouldn’t be able to do it: Traveling alone? With all that Luggage? In unfamiliar worlds? Ladies?. Nelly Bly packed especially light: 1 small hand-held bag to hold essentials; she relied on her sturdy traveling outfit to be adaptable and adjustable.

Bisland went West, Bly went East. Bisland was a literary columnist and editor at a monthly magazine; Bly was the famous investigative journalist for The World newspaper, who preceded to wring every bit of publicity and circulation out of Bly’s journey. Their editors pulled strings and bribed trains, ships, and carriages to get their traveler on schedule and ahead of the other woman. Bly’s trip took 72 days, six hours, eleven minutes, and fourteen seconds. It was a world record for anyone - man or woman. Bisland arrived 4 and half days later, having been misinformed that her intended ship to the US had already sailed. (The original ship would have put her 2 hours behind Bly, anyway; Atlantic storms were among the worst on record that winter, and the passage was rough for all ships). Bisland, too, had beaten the 80 day standard, but she had not beaten Bly.

Longer Reads:
Nellie Bly’s account of her trip
Elizabeth Bisland’s account of her trip
Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days in digital formats.

Nelly Bly previously on the Blue: "What Girls Are Good For”
posted by julen (6 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Blake Edwards made a comic version in which Natalie Wood gets the third pie-face in the greatest pie fight ever in the movies.
posted by bukvich at 7:20 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Great post, thanks! Love love love Nellie Bly. She had such a sad life, before and after her fame.
posted by Melismata at 8:52 AM on March 19, 2015

This is great! And I realize it's linked, but I wanted to emphasize that the book about their race is one of my best recent library whims. Really, really, really interesting stuff about the race and who they both were as people.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is also a video.
posted by w0mbat at 9:29 AM on March 19, 2015

I also came in to say nice things about the book. It's worth a read.
posted by immlass at 9:47 AM on March 19, 2015

If you're a fan of the original book, you owe it to yourself to check out 80 Days, an amazing mobile game that takes you (as Passepartout) on the journey in a Steampunk world. It's a modern form of Choose-your-own-Adventure, with excellent writing.

Maybe the sequel should star Bly, with an alternate playthrough option as Bisland.
posted by Four Flavors at 9:51 AM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

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