Archives For April 2016

Z is for Zero Sum

April 30, 2016

Z
This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

A zero-sum competition is one where the sum of the gains equals the sum of the losses. When Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland went around the world attempting to beat Jules Verne’s fictional 80 days, only one could be the winner. The other the loser.

Nellie didn’t begin her trip around the world racing against Elizabeth Bisland. She was always racing against the clock. She didn’t even know another female reporter was racing against her until she was halfway around the world. No one from her newspaper told her. She had to find out from a ticket agent in Hong Kong who told her she was going to lose the other girl. What other girl?!?

“You are going to lose it,” he said with an air of conviction.

“Lose it? I don’t understand. What do you mean?” I demanded, beginning to think he was mad.

“Aren’t you having a race around the world?” he asked, as if he thought I was not Nellie Bly.

“Yes; quite right. I am running a race with Time,” I replied.

“Time? I don’t think that’s her name.”

“Her! Her!!” I repeated, thinking, “Poor fellow, he is quite unbalanced,” and wondering if I dared wink at the doctor to suggest to him the advisability of our making good our escape.

“Yes, the other woman; she is going to win. She left here three days ago.”

–Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

 

Elizabeth Bisland, however, was racing against Nellie from day one. And only one could win. Zero-sum.

Y
This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Japan opened up to foreigners in 1854, just thirty-five years before Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland set out on their race around the world. They both loved Japan, having wonderful things to say about the country. They stayed in the port city of Yokohama, on the English side, at the Grand Hotel. Elizabeth went shopping, curious at how the shops opened right out onto the street, and thrilled at the array of silks.

 

Silk_merchant

Silk Merchant By Unknown – Popular Science Monthly Volume 43, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12783669

We sit on the edge of the little platform that forms the floor of the shop, and, in the baby talk that is called pigeon-English, bargain with the amiable shopkeeper seated on his own heels and within easy reach of all his goods….In the silk-shops we find the very poetry of fabrics: . . . crapes like milky opals, with the pale iris hues of rainbows; crapes with the faint purple and rose of clear sunset skies, embroidered with wheeling flights of white storks….fairy garments all, woven of rainbows and moonbeams!  –Elizabeth Bisland, In Seven Stages

One_hundred_steps_in_yokohama

The One Hundred Steps

In Yokohama, I went to Hundred Steps, at the top of which lives a Japanese belle, Oyuchisan, who is the theme for artist and poet, and the admiration of tourists. –Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

For more check out: Popular Science Monthly Volume 43, May 1893

X is for eXcursions

April 28, 2016

X

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

I’ve been on one cruise ship in my life and we splurged on one excursion along the way. Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland went around the world and had several opportunities to go on excursions while they waited for the next ship to set sail. It was interesting to read the difference and similarities in their experiences as they visited the same ports, and often stayed in the same hotels.

For example, Nellie suffered an extended layover in Colombo and had ample time to visit all the tourist haunts and buy herself a ring from the infamous gem dealers. Here she describes the snake charmers outside the hotel who performed all sorts of tricks:

Although these men always asked us to “See the snake dance?” we always saw every other trick but the one that had caught us. One morning, when a man urged me to “See the snake dance?” I said that I would, but that I would pay to see the snake dance and for nothing else.

Quite unwillingly the men lifted the lid of the basket, and the cobra crawled slowly out, curling itself up on the ground. The “charmer” began to play on a little fife, meanwhile waving a red cloth which attracted the cobra’s attention. It rose up steadily, darting angrily at the red cloth, and rose higher at every motion until it seemed to stand on the tip end of its tail. Then it saw the charmer and it darted for him, but he cunningly caught it by the head and with such a grip that I saw the blood gush from the snake’s month.

He worked for some time, still firmly holding the snake by the head before he could get it into the basket, the reptile meanwhile lashing the ground furiously with its tail. When at last it was covered from sight, I drew a long breath, and the charmer said to me sadly:

“Cobra no dance, cobra too young, cobra too fresh!”

–Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days.

 

 

Elizabeth Bisland had quite a different experience when she arrived after Nellie (They went opposite directions, crossing each other’s path somewhere on the ocean.)

He takes off the cover of the snake basket, the reptile within lying sullenly sluggish until a rap over the head induces him to lift himself angrily, puff out his throat, and make ready to strike. But his master is playing a low, monotonous tune on a tiny bamboo flute, with his eyes fastened upon the snake’s eyes, and swaying his nude body slowly from side to side.

The serpent stirs restlessly, and flickers his wicked, thin red tongue; but the sleepy tune drones on and on, and the brown body moves to and fro – to and fro. Presently the serpent begins to wave softly, following the movements of the man’s body and with his eyes fixed on the man’s eyes, and so in time sinks slowly in a languid heap of relaxed folds. . . . The music grows fainter, fainter; dies away to a breath – a whisper – ceases. The man hangs the helpless inert serpent – drunk with the insistent low whine of the flute – about his bare neck and breast, and comes forward to beg a rupee for his pains. –Elizabeth Bisland, In Seven Stages

And the walk they took on the Galle Face is partially still there:

W

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Guest blogger Rosemary J Brown, fellow Nellie Bly enthusiast, is back for one last blog. How fitting we are nearing the end of A to Z and today she is talking about the final resting place of both Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

Rosemary followed Nellie Bly’s route around the world in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the race. If you’ve been enjoying these A to Z posts about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, then visiting Rosemary’s website Nellie Bly in the Sky is a must. You will not be disappointed.

***

The final resting place of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland

After following Nellie Bly so intently around the world, I wanted to visit her gravesite to pay my respects when I arrived in New York City. Both Nellie and Elizabeth Bisland are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark in the Bronx.

DSC03728

They share the famous cemetery with newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Duke Ellington and numerous famous people.

Cemetery historian Susan Olsen took me for a tour of this fascinating burial ground stretching more than 400 acres and home to 300,000 graves.

We passed the tombs of America’s most-loved people, some adorned with Tiffany glass. The first stop was at Elizabeth Bisland’s gravesite where I laid a white rose.

Elizabeth Bisland's tomb with Rosemary and Susan Olsen

 

Our second stop was the tomb of Joseph Pulitzer, Nellie’s boss at the New York World.  He built a newspaper empire from scratch. It was his idea to send Nellie to the asylum on Blackwell’s Island to uncover the abuses that mentally ill women suffered. That story resulted in sweeping reforms in the care of mentally ill people.

At last we were on our way to Nellie’s tomb — plot 212, section 19 in the Honeysuckle Lot. It’s where many victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918 are buried, according to Susan Olsen. Nellie’s was one of the few graves in the Honeysuckle Lot that boasted a headstone. But it wasn’t even erected until 1978 when the New York Press Club dedicated it ‘in honor a of famous news reporter’.

To me, Nellie Bly was so much more than a famous news reporter. She not only paved the way for women in journalism; she  pioneered investigative journalism – the kind of reporting that brings about change and reforms….and makes the world a better place. When most women were relegated to the home, she travelled the world on her own with a small gripsack and the clothes on her back.

With that in mind, I laid a bouquet of white roses on her grave.

Rest in peace Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

Rosemary Brown placing roses on Nellie Bly's tombstone at Woodlawn Cemetery, NYC by Alice Robbins-Fox

V

 

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome back guest blogger Rosemary J Brown, fellow Nellie Bly enthusiast. She not only enjoyed reading about Nellie Bly’s race around the world, but she put boots to her devotion and actually traveled Nellie’s route in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the race. If you’ve been enjoying these A to Z posts about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, then visiting Rosemary’s website Nellie Bly in the Sky is a must. You will not be disappointed.

***

Nellie risked a time-guzzling deviation only 8 days into the race, sacrificing two nights of sleep, to accept an invitation to the home of Jules Verne – the author of Around the World in 80 Days – who inspired her own voyage. It meant going to Amiens, France.

“Oh how I should love to see them,” she said upon learning of the invitation once she arrived in London.

Two days later she received a memorable welcome from Jules and Honorine Verne. “Jules Verne’s bright eyes beamed on me with interest and kindliness, and Mme. Verne greeted me with the cordiality of a cherished friend,” Nellie recalls. “Before I had been many minutes in their company, they had won my everlasting respect and devotion.”

maison-jules-verne-and dog

Nellie’s visit with the Vernes lives on today at the Maison Jules Verne, a living tribute to the French author attracting visitors from around the world. Many rooms reflect the descriptions in Nellie’s own book Around the World in 72 Days.

While at the Maison Jules Verne, I was quite literally following in Nellie’s footsteps for the first time. Nellie Bly and I were in the same room …separated by 125 years.  I felt so close to her.

Nellie’s description of the Verne’s salon is framed and hung there for all to read:

“The room was large and the hangings and paintings and soft velvet rug, which left visible but a border of polished wood, were richly dark. All the chairs artistically upholstered in brocaded silks, were luxuriously easy…”

Jules Verne's House, Amiens FRANCE

Nellie visited the author’s study by candlelight. It remains today just as she saw it. She was surprised by its modesty. So was I. “One bottle of ink and one penholder was all that shared the desk with the manuscript.” The tidiness of his manuscript impressed Nellie giving her the idea that “Mr Verne always improved his work by taking out superfluous things and never by adding.” Great advice for all writers.

Before she knew it, it was time to leave her new friends the Vernes. They shared a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire before bidding each other farewell.

The race was on.

Jules and Honorine Verne diligently followed Nellie’s progress around the globe and sent her a congratulatory telegram when she reached America. That fleeting visit made a lasting impression.

 

See also: Voyages Extraordinaires (blog) and Maison de Jules Verne (Trip Advisor with testimonials and photos)

U is for Ulster Coat

April 24, 2016

U

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

nellie 1890When Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland raced around the world in 1889, they began in November, right when it was turning wet and cold in New York City. They would begin and end the trip braving winter storms on sea and snowstorms on land. In between, they would enjoy a nice tropical vacation sailing through the Indian Ocean. To stay warm in the winter climates, Nellie bought her famous black and white checked Ulster coat. An Ulster is simply an overcoat  popular in Victorian times. It was an every-day coat made of durable material.

T

 

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

Note: I originally published this as R is for Railroad, forgetting that I meant for it to be on T day so I could do Reform cloths on R day. So if you were here earlier and are experiencing deja vu, now you know why!

Luxury_on_wheels

In the 1800s if you needed to travel long distances, you’d either take a ship or a train. When Elizabeth Bisland set out in her race against Nellie Bly, she left Grand Central station in New York headed for Chicago. She was in for a wild ride when she transferred to a fast mail train that was trying for its own record for the fastest mail run to California. Falling behind, the manager had a fresh engineer come aboard to make up the difference in time:

He was a gentleman of Irish extraction who labored under an entire absence of physical timidity, and who remarked with jovial determination, as he climbed into the cab, that he would “get us to Ogden – or hell, on time.” Several times during that five hours’ ride the betting stood ten to one on the latter goal, and Hades was hot favorite…..The telegraph pole reeled backwards from our course and the land fled from under us with horrible nightmare weirdness. The officers of the train became alarmed and ordered speed slackened; but Mr. Foley, consulting his watch, regretted with great firmness that he could not oblige them.

We arrived in Ogden on time.

Mr. [Foley] dismounted with alacrity from his cab, remarked that these night rides were prone to give a man cold, and went in pursuit of an antidote behind a swinging Venetian door on the corner, and we saw him no more. –Elizabeth Bisland, Elizabeth Bisland in Seven Stages

inside a pullman car 1890s

Interior of Rococo Period Car, c. 1890s.
Newberry Call Number: Pullman Company Archives, 03-01-01, box 16, folder 722.

Nellie Bly also had several interesting encounters on trains. She complained that the European models were not as comfortable as the ones in the USA (nearly froze on the train through the mountains in Italy), and found it odd that the European compartments each had their own doors which were locked from the outside:

Then too, did the English railway carriage make me understand why English girls need chaperones. It would make any American woman shudder with all her boasted self-reliance, to think of sending her daughter alone on a trip, even of a few hours’ duration, where there was every possibility that during those hours she would be locked in a compartment with a stranger.

Small wonder the American girl is fearless. She has not been used to so called private compartments in English railway carriages, but to large crowds, and every individual that helps to swell that crowd is to her a protector. When mothers teach their daughters that there is safety in numbers, and that numbers are the body-guard that shield all woman-kind, then chaperones will be a thing of the past, and women will be nobler and better. –Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

S is for Steamship

April 22, 2016

S

 

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

augusta victoria

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland spent a lot of time on various steamships, the most important form of transportation in their race around the world. Nellie started out going east aboard the Augusta Victoria, the newest, most luxurious ship of the day (pictured above). It was decked out in Rocco-style furnishings, very luxurious. She ate with the captain and slept all day, waiting for her sea sickness to calm down.

To pass the time, passengers played deck games like quoits, a game played with rings and targets. The passengers would also get up sing-a-longs and talent shows and tableaux vivants. A tableaux vivant is a “living picture.” Actors would arrange themselves behind a curtain into a scene, the curtain drawn back, and the actors hold their pose, not moving.

The passengers endeavored to make the time pass pleasantly between Aden and Colombo. The young women had some tableaux vivants one evening, and they were really very fine. In one they wished to represent the different countries. They asked me to represent America, but I refused, and then they asked me to tell them what the American flag looked like! They wanted to represent one as nearly as possible and to rise it to drape the young woman who was to represent America. Another evening we had a lantern slide exhibition that was very enjoyable. –Nellie Bly

(Looks like my S day just turned into a T day! Couldn’t help it…I thought these were really interesting. Aside: If you are a teacher, here is a fun tableaux vivant exercise to do at an art museum: Tableaux Vivant History and Practice)

Here is a look at a modern-day tableaux vivant behind-the-scenes:

(See also O is for Oceanic)

R is for Reform Clothes

April 21, 2016

R

 

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

Reform clothes are garments such as bloomers that women began to wear so they could exercise better, especially after the popularity of the bicycle increased. Serious wheelwomen didn’t like having to watch that their skirts didn’t get caught in the chain or the wheel, causing injury. So, women’s clothing began to evolve away from the large bustles and the tight corsets of the earlier 1800s. The movement was known as the Rational Dress Movement.

Nellie Bly was known for being a wheelwomen, but she did not pack any bloomers for her trip around the world.

Similarly, Elizabeth Bisland only packed the conventional long skirts of the day, but she made this observation on her trip:

The Chinese woman of the working class, I find, decided centuries ago the question still in its stormy infancy with us – of the divided skirt. She clothes herself in a pair of wide black trousers, a loose tunic, jade earrings and cork-soled shoes, and is ready for all the emergencies of life. –Elizabeth Bisland, In Seven Stages.

I think the phrase she used: “stormy infancy” is quite telling! Women’s clothing, especially bloomers, were a hot topic back in the day. Here is a Punch magazine comic about the issue from 1895:

Bicycle_suit_punch_1895

And here is the result of a poll over which clothing women preferred in the Cycling West magazine in 1895: (see video, about the 2:30 mark)

1827 Short skirt (and by short skirt, meaning a few inches off the ground (!))
1116 Bloomers
940 Divided skirt
112 Long skirt
73 knickerbockers

Q

 

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

Elizabeth Bisland never planned on going to Queenstown, Ireland, but when you are racing around the world, you have to be prepared for detours. Queenstown was named such in 1850 when Queen Victoria stopped in for a visit. In the 1920s, Queenstown was changed to Cobh.

Its major historical claims to fame from the 1800s include:

  • being the port from which millions of Irish emigrated during the potato famine,
  • Annie Moore, the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island in America
  • last port of call for the Titanic

Queenstown_aka_Cobh_1890s

When Elizabeth was there, she was desperate for a bite to eat, but she had to be quick because they didn’t know when her ship would be sailing. The weather was rough, and as soon as there was an opening, the little boat would be off to connect with the larger Bothnia.

At noon we reach Queenstown, having curved around a fair space of water and past the beautiful city of Cork. The ship has not yet arrived, but will doubtless be here in a few moments, the bad weather having delayed her; and my luggage is all hurried down to the tender, where I should be sent, too, did I not wail with hunger.

The Queen’s Hotel is not far from the station, but the evil luck which has pursued me for the last two days ordains that the kitchen of this hostelry should be undergoing repairs at this particular moment, and no food is to be had. By dint of perseverance, in frantic protest and reckless objurgation, I finally secure a cup of rather cold and bitter tea and a bit of dingy bread that looks as if it had been used to scrub the floor with before being presented to me as a substitute for breakfast.

I am warned to hold myself in readiness for an instantaneous summons to the tender, for when the steamer is signalled there is no time to waste. –Elizabeth Bisland

P

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

***

Nellie Bly board game

What to do when there is no Netflix, cable or even rabbit ears for your TV? People back in the 1800s used to socialize a bit more than we do today, and one of those ways to pass the time was through parlor games. A well-equipped parlor came with plenty of chairs for company, a table for games and a piano forte. What games? Tiddledy winks, board games, card games such as whist, as well as verbal games of logic. (If you’ve ever been part of a church youth group, chances are you’ve played some version of these old games like Wink Murder and Do You Love Your Neighbor?)

On their respective trips around the world, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland played games aboard ship to pass the time. On New Year’s Eve 1889 Nellie Bly’s table played singing games, including one that sounded like a sneeze:

As we sat around the table the doctor gave us each a word to say, such as Ish! Ash! Osh! Then when we were sure of our word, it coming in rotation around the circle, he told us to shout the words in unison when he gave the signal. We did, and it made one great big sneeze–the most gigantic and absurd sneeze I ever heard in my life.

New York World newspaper printed a game board of Nellie Bly’s trip around the world. It was then made into a colorful board game that you can often find for sale on Ebay (not cheap!)

For more games and rules:

Victorian Parlour Games

10 Weird Parlour Games Played Before TV Existed

 

Philopena

This other P word was too good to pass up. Another 1800s pastime I’d never heard of before involved a philopena:

The hurricane deck was a great resort for lovers, so Chief Officer Sleeman told me; and evidently he knew, for he talked a great deal about two American girls who had traveled to Egypt, I believe, on the Thames when he was first officer of it. He had lost their address but his heart was true, for he had lost a philopoena to one and though he did not know her habitation he bought the philopoena and put it in a bank in London where it awaits some farther knowledge of the fair young American’s whereabouts. – Nellie Bly

This took some digging for me to find out what a philopena was. Here are the best explanations I could find as gathered on Wordnik:

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A game in which a person, on finding a double-kernelled almond or nut, may offer the second kernel to another person and demand a playful forfeit from that person to be paid on their next meeting. The forfeit may simply be to exchange the greeting “Good-day, Philopena” or it may be more elaborate. Philopenas were often played as a form of flirtation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A custom or game of reputed German origin: two persons share a nut containing two kernels, and one of them incurs the obligation of giving something as forfeit to the other, either by being first addressed by the latter with the word philopena at their next meeting, or by receiving something from the other’s hand, or by answering a question with yes or no, or by some other similar test as agreed upon.

Another source I read which is no longer online explained that the game was flirtatious, and that the person who won should not say exactly what they wanted, but hint at with a clue such as: “I wear size 6 gloves.”