After the publication of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days in 1873, travelers everywhere were challenged to see if the imaginary feat could actually be done. Though it wasn’t until November 14, 1889, that two women, a reporter and a journalist, would set off in opposite directions in a race to beat the eighty days and each other.
For over a year Nellie Bly, known for her sometimes dangerous undercover work, tried to get Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper to send her on the trip. When Bly finally got the newspaper’s okay, she left in the morning of the 14th on a steamship bound for England, but unknown to her another woman would undertake the journey as well.
Discovering Bly’s trip on the 14th Cosmopolitan Magazine did not want to be outdone, so they immediately sent the genteel Elizabeth Bisland, whose literary column appeared in the magazine, on a train headed west across the country that afternoon. The competition captured the world’s attention as readers everywhere read the dispatches and tried to guess the actually time the trip would take.
Not only would completion of the race be amazing, but it was undertaken by two women in an age when women were expected to be chaperoned when out in public. Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman is part travel log, biography, history, and one huge adventure.