Allegheny County Airport Authority has announced that journalist Nellie Bly will become the third person to be honored with a statue in the terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport. Bly’s statue will join those of the first US president, George Washington, and Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris.
“Pittsburgher Nellie Bly made history as a groundbreaking journalist and staunch advocate for women’s rights,” said Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center. “It’s fitting that we’ll honor her legacy on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with a new lifelike figure, encouraging millions of travelers to learn her story.”
Taking Nellie Bly as her pen name, Elizabeth Cochran began her career in journalism as a teenager writing for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After several years with the Dispatch, Bly moved to New York City, eventually becoming a reporter for New York World. In 1887 one of her first assignments involved going undercover as a patient at an asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
The resulting story, Ten Days in a Mad-House, exposed the facility’s poor conditions and mistreatment of patients, spurring radical changes in how the public health system treated mental illness. Bly’s story is widely considered to be the first piece of investigative journalism in American history, pioneering a new approach to documenting social problems and raising public awareness.
Following the release of her exposé, Bly continued to produce investigative stories, bringing attention to other societal issues.
“The history of Western Pennsylvania cannot be told without noting the accomplishments of so many great women,” Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said. “It is important to us that those stories be told, and we’re honored to recognize Nellie Bly’s groundbreaking achievements here at the airport.”
The statue of Bly will be installed in the airport’s Airside Terminal later in March.