Ever since I read the biography on Nellie Bly when I was in elementary school, I have been inspired by women reporters.
Elizabeth Jane Cochran wrote for newspapers under the pen name Nellie Bly, and strove to write investigative stories calling for reform of various institutions. However, the newspaper who first hired her, continued to assign her to stories about flower shows and fashion. Nellie fought against these assignments, and traveled to Mexico to write as a foreign correspondent about the every day lives of Mexican people. When she returned to the United States, her Pittsburgh editor went back to his old ways and assigned her to the woman’s page once again.
She left Pittsburgh for New York City, and in her first reporting job for the “New York World,” she impersonated a mad woman to gain entrance to an institution for the mentally ill on Blackwell’s island. Her stories not only brought reform to institutions such as these, but they also pioneered undercover investigative reporting. During her years as a reporter, she continued to expose corruption and injustice, bringing about reform.
It is no surprise, then, that as a teenager I began to follow “Brenda Starr, Reporter” every Sunday in the comics section. Not only did Brenda follow hot leads and travel the world, but her romance with Basil St. John captivated me. Since 1985, real life Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, along with illustrators Ramona Fradon and June Brigman, wrote the story lines for Brenda Starr. I was so sad when Brenda Starr ended this year, but the ending was fitting. Brenda retires from the paper and walks into the sunset, with a box containing a black orchid and a card with the initials “BSJ”.
Since I have started writing a blog, I look up to certain newspaper columnists whose columns I read regularly. Barbara Brotman frequently writes about everyday topics in an engaging way. It is still a mystery to me how good columnists think of such great stories almost daily that are worthy of publication.
What women writers inspire you?
You can read Barbara Brotman’s column from today here: Do you unplug from your music when you encounter a friend? – chicagotribune.com