As a nurse who has worked as a mental health case manager, I was drawn to the title, Ten Days in the Madhouse by Nellie Bly. However, as I read it, I was more interested in Nellie, herself. She was barely 20 years old and trying to work in a male dominated world. Her risky entrance into the poor, mentally ill world took pure guts, determination and tenacity.
Besides convincing an editor to support her, the first problem was how to have two physicians declare her insane. She had had no contact with anyone who was insane and didn't know what behaviors would be convincing. Nearly half of the book covers getting into Bellevue Hospital. The remaining portion is about those ten days and her multiple roles: acting insane, getting the ladies to talk with her and fearing that something could go wrong and she'd end up there forever. Conditions in the hospital would lead to insanity if someone wasn't already mentally ill. As bad as those ten days were, I know that worse things were part of mental hospital system throughout the USA. It wasn't until medications became available that positive changes occurred. The attendants were not nurses but in today's terms minimum-wage positions.
This is a quick, interesting read for women from various backgrounds. Nellie Bly (her pen name) became an undercover, investigative reporter and championed many unjust causes for the poor and for women. She changed our world.
I was so fascinated by Nellie that I searched through Google and found a 1981 TV program: Classics Illustrated ~ Adventures of Nellie Bly. In 2015, PBS presented a documentary on her.
Nellie was an important part of our country's history, why hadn't I ever heard of her? Have you?
By the way, how would you respond to Jules Verne's book Around the World in 80 Days? Nellie replied I could "go around the world in 75 days." That's the next book I'll review.
P.S. $1 million in 1889 is the equivalent to $24,785,600.85 today. Read this book and you'll understand.
Available at www.ichthuspublications.com.