Monument honoring investigative journalist Nellie Bly opens on Roosevelt Island

December 15, 2021

Image credit: Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation

A monument honoring trailblazing investigative journalist Nellie Bly opened to the public on Friday. The structure was designed by Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art to bring attention to women who have overcome adversity. Located at the tip of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island, the monument is named after Bly’s first published work, “The Girl Puzzle.” 

Structurally, the monument consists of five large bronze faces depicting Bly along with four other women, each of whom represents a distinct background. Words written by Bly are engraved behind each face, speaking on the strength and courage of the women as well as their stories.

In the center of the monument sit three silver globes, each honoring a significant moment in Nellie Bly’s astounding journalistic career which began at a small Pittsburgh newspaper and ended with her making headlines in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Visitors will be able to interact with the monument through an audio tour as well as braille plaques.

“We are proud to be leading the charge in support of statues featuring women, having commissioned such an important work of art representing women and equality,” Shelton J. Haynes, president and CEO of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), said.

“This, coupled with our landmarked Blackwell House and iconic Tramway makes Roosevelt Island an exceptional destination where history, education, and current events intertwine. We’re so proud to house this important and awe-inspiring monument that all New Yorkers can take pride in.”

Bly pioneered the field of investigative journalism in 1887 when “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” her most revered piece of work, was published. After being tipped off about the terrible conditions at an asylum on Blackwell Island, present-day Roosevelt Island, Bly faked insanity and was admitted to the institution. During this time, Bly witnessed firsthand the inhumane ways the women being held there were treated and later told the stories of those she met. For her work there, Bly is recognized as one of Roosevelt Island’s most influential figures.

The memorial opened last Friday, coinciding with International Human Rights Day, as Gov. Kathy Hochul noted.

“As the first woman to ever serve as Governor of the State of New York, I’m proud to lead the state that was the birthplace of the fight for women’s rights,” Hochul said. “The monument, with its five faces representing the broad diversity of so many women, will provide a poignant educational and meaningful destination for visitors to reflect on our shared history and remember that women’s rights are human rights.”

Although progress has been made in recent years, only seven statues depicting historical women can be found in New York City. Campaigns such as She Built NYC! and projects like “Statues for Equality” have worked to address the inequity that is present in many of the city’s public spaces.

Last summer, a memorial dedicated to women’s rights activists Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton opened in Central Park, becoming the park’s first monument of real-life women. And in March, a statue of late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was unveiled in Downtown Brooklyn.


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