Islington author's book retraces Nellie Bly's voyage around the world in 72 days

Rosemary Brown with her book, Following Nellie Bly

Rosemary Brown with her book, Following Nellie Bly - Credit: Rosemary Brown

An Islington author who re-enacted the record-breaking journey of Nellie Bly - who travelled around the world in 72 days in the 19th century - has published a book about her adventure.

Rosemary Brown, 66, of Canonbury Park South, undertook the expedition - which she registered with the Royal Geographical Society - to mark the 125th anniversary of Nellie’s journey, which earned her the reputation of being one of the greatest female adventurers of all time.

Alone and literally with just the clothes on her back, the journalist took eight less to circle the world in 1889 than the fictional hero Phileas Fogg.

It was his journey in Jules Verne’s bestseller Around the World in Eighty Days that had inspired her trip.

She was already well-known at the time for her undercover reporting in the US, having faked insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect in a mental asylum.


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Rosemary's own journey is now recounted in her book, Following Nellie Bly: Her Record-Breaking Race Around the World.

She travelled alone with one small cabin bag, just like Nellie, as she tried to emulate her trip as much as she possibly could.

Nellie Bly in her legendary travel attire. Courtesy of Library of Congress LC-USZ62-59924

Nellie Bly in her legendary travel attire - Credit: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-59924

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However, she had to fly instead of taking a ship, because the sea routes taken by Nellie no longer exist - and in the same vein, was disappointed to find that a lot had changed since Nellie’s voyage. The Japanese port of Yokohama, for example, was destroyed in an earthquake in 1923. 

To further frustrate her goal, some countries - like Egypt and Yemen - were too dangerous for her to be able to visit at the time.

But Rosemary did find some places had barely changed since Nellie's visit, and she stayed in the same hotel as her in Sri Lanka, and was able to also visit Jules Verne's house in Amiens, France, which is now a museum.

"I followed in Bly’s global footsteps to ‘put her back on the map’ as a role model," said Rosemary.

"I was awed by her achievement and shocked by its present-day obscurity."

"Bly burst through barriers that kept women in their place – and took hers on the front pages of the world’s newspapers."

Nellie Bly, courtesy of New York Public Library archives

Nellie Bly - Credit: New York Public Library archives


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