The postage stamps at the upper left commemorate the women journalists Ethel L Payne, and Nellie Bly.
Nellie Bly (1864-1922) was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochrans Mills, Pa. In 1885, angered by a column in The Pittsburg Dispatch, she sent an anonymous letter to the editor. Impressed with her letter, the editor ran an ad seeking the writer's identity.
After meeting Cochran, he hired her to write an article about "a woman's place in the world." She soon became a permanent member of the staff and began to use the pen name Nellie Bly, taken from the popular Stephen Foster song "Nelly Bly."
In 1887 Bly moved to New York City and was hired by The World a newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer. For her first assignment she feigned insanity and gained admittance to the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwells Island (now Roosevelt Island). Bly's account of her experience exposed the poor treatment of patients in the asylum.
Given the task of traveling around the world in fewer than 80 days, Bly achieved widespread fame in 1889 as she raced around the world to beat the record set by Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg. She began her voyage on Nov.14, 1889, setting sail from New Jersey for England. Before her journey ended 72 days later, Bly had traveled by train, rickshaw and burro to achieve her goal.
Bly was one of the first female stunt reporters who participated in dangerous or sensational activities in order to capture readers' attention. Her success, as well as the social issues her stories highlighted, helped open the profession to coming generations of women journalists who wanted to write hard news rather than be relegated to light features and society columns.
Award-winning journalist Ethel L. Payne (1911-1991), known as the first lady of the black press, combined advocacy with journalism as she reported on the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1972 she became the first female African-American commentator employed by a national network.
Born in Chicago, Ill., Payne began her journalism career rather unexpectedly while working as a hostess at an Army Special Services club in Japan, a position she had taken in 1948. She allowed a visiting reporter from the "Chicago Defender" to read her journal, which detailed her own experiences as well as those of African-American soldiers. Impressed, the reporter took the journal back to Chicago and soon Payne's observations were being used by the Defender, an African-American newspaper with a national readership, as the basis for front-page stories.
In the early 1950s, Payne moved back to Chicago to work full-time for the Defender. After working there for two years she took over the paper's one-person bureau in Washington, D.C. During Payne's career, she covered several key events in the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery bus boycott and desegregation at the University of Alabama in 1956, as well as the 1963 March on Washington.
Payne earned a reputation as an aggressive journalist who asked tough questions. She once asked President Eisenhower when he planned to ban segregation in interstate travel. The President's angry response that he refused to support special interests made headlines and helped push civil rights issues to the forefront of national debate.¹