Ten Days in a Mad-House is a book written by newspaper reporter Nellie Bly in 1887. The book comprised Bly’s reportage for the New York World while on an undercover assignment in which she feigned insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. The book’s graphic depiction of conditions at the asylum caused a sensation, brought Bly lasting fame and prompted a grand jury to launch its own investigation, with Bly assisting. The jury’s report resulted in an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections.
This book was very easy to read. Nellie Bly has a very conversational way of writing, she also does not get bogged down in needless detail. In this book she tells how she got the assignment and how she prepared for it. After she is committed, which was a rather quick and easy process, she details how her first day went. She then states that all her days were like that and proceeds onto the treatment, mis-treatment, abuse, conditions at the asylum. Her belief that there were women there that were not insane substantiated by her reports of their actions and conversations.
After the section on the asylum, there is another short article on the working conditions of women, she refers to it as ‘white slavery’. Also very well written. I recommend this book.
Bly is a legend to any woman journalist (which is what I am) who knows her history. What she did was extraordinarily brave and highly unusual for a woman of her time. Thanks for bringing her back to light for 21st century readers!