I have probably mentioned this before, but when I was a tween, the Scholastic Book Order club was pretty much the highlight of my school existence. Every month they’d send out a two page book catalog, printed on newsprint, and I would pore over it, trying to figure out which two or three books I would order.
The next phase involved the wheedling of cash from my mother. I can remember very specifically the feeling of walking to school with the actual form clutched in my hand. It about the size of a postcard and printed on newsprint, and I would wrap it around the quarters and dimes with which I was going to pay for the treasure.
One of the Scholastic books I didn’t retain into adulthood was a biography of Nellie Bly, and it was absolutely one of my favorites. Nellie was an intrepid girl reporter who worked for Joseph Pulitzer, and the book told about how she went undercover at an insane asylum for women–writing an expose on its cruelties–before capping off her career with a ’round the world race to prove that Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days trip was a possible thing.
Another magazine sent a competing reporter, so halfway around the journey she found out she was in a race with Elizabeth Bisland.
So. Not long ago my good friend Keph posted about Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World on Facebook and I immediately grabbed it up. It is as gratifying and intriguing as I expected. Nellie and Elizabeth were remarkably different women whose lives had intriguing similarities: they bumped up against the same feminist issues in very different ways.
On a barely-relevant note – I am now living within blocks of the Scholastic building. This is, for me, rather like living on the front lawn of the Taj Mahal or the Vatican.