Book: Bly vs. Bisland. Two Women Race Around The World. In 1889!

Female solo travel? In the late 18th century? The shocking thought of it fascinated the public. They followed the two adventurers as they circled the globe. They started at the same time, but in different directions.

There are some people who are unstoppable. It doesn’t matter what obstacles stand in their way, they find a way to do the things they dream of. Two women traveling alone, breaking, attempting to beat fictional Phineas Fogg’s 80-trip in Jules Verne’s classic while breaking gender barriers at the same time.

Phileas Fogg, their inspiration, traveled with his servant. These two female solo travelers were left to take care of every task themselves, and they handled it all expertly! Of course, Fogg had a police warrant for his arrest, complicating his trip and driving the plot.

The Contenders: Nellie Bly vs. Elizabeth Bisland

Each had to prepare in just a night. Nellie Bly’s publication made a last-minute decision to let her go. Elizabeth Bisland’s publication wanted her to beat Nellie Bly and steal the credit. Just one night to pack. Their last-minute preparation shows their very distinct personalities.

Nellie Bly, Reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World

Nellie Bly was the well-known daredevil reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. She had already exposed life in the Blackwell Island lunatic asylum, going undercover as a patient. Blackwell Island is now Roosevelt Island, right next to Manhattan.

The center portion of this condominium is all that remains of the original lunatic asylum.

Still, Nellie’s newspaper publisher refused to let her make this trip around the world, saying he preferred to send a man. Nellie was furious. “Very well,” she warned, “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.” Her publisher knew Nellie too well and, finally, let her go.

Nellie was a simple woman. She brought just one dress and one jacket, allowing her to fit all of the possessions in just one mid-sized bag. Her mind was set on her goal of beating the 80-day record, and not looking fashionable along the way.

She regretted not bringing a Kodak camera, which had debuted earlier that year. Many tourists throughout the world already had them, she said. This was an age of new technologies. In fact, the challenge was only possible because of the newly-invented steam engine. Modern-day traveled would be different forever. Faster trips across the Atlantic, and a camera to record the experience.

Elizabeth Bisland, Writer for the Magazine, The Cosmopolitan

Elizabeth arrived in New York City just two years before her race around the world with only 50-cents in her pocket but, before long, she had made a name for herself, and enough money to live comfortably. She did not like the fame, though, and did whatever she could to stay out of the spotlight.

Elizabeth Bisland’s publisher called her into their offices to tell her that she would be making the trip around the world, leaving the following morning. Elizabeth Bisland was sophisticated. She had an entire trunk that she packed with clothing.

The Race Begins

My photo in NY’s Hudson Valley

Both women began in New York City. While Bisland boarded a train for San Francisco to begin her journey, Nellie Bly boarded a steamship for England. The steamship was the only part of the journey that Nellie booked in advance. She wanted the freedom to travel spontaneously. If you have that adventurous streak in you, then you know how important spontaneity is.

When Nellie arrived in England, Jules Verne and his wife had an invitation waiting for her. They wanted to meet the daredevil woman at their home in France. So Nellie made her first detour so she could meet them.

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were two adventurous women, as different as could be. Nellie was very practical, ready for adventure; but Elizabeth was more sophisticated with a more literary style. She was more prolific, so she has many more sections in the book.

Bly vs. Bisland: The Book

The spirit of adventure in both of these women makes their trips exciting to follow. The actual observations, though, are not the modern ones that we’re used. Parts sound racially ignorant, but people are products of the times they live in. Read this book for the adventure of two audacious women. Nellie Bly was a simpler woman, but with a spark to ignite the world. Elizabeth Bisland was a better writer, and that makes her segments interesting.

We listened to the Bly vs. Bisland audiobook. Each travel adventurer had their own narrator, and they were as distinct as the two women themselves. We left 5 stars for performances. If you’re a travel fanatic like us, then this one is worth your time.


Our upcoming cozy mystery on Kindle

Travel & lifestyle influencer Miranda arrives in Chinquapin Hills to promote a local tourist attraction, a lighthouse-turned-inn that holds many secrets.

One of these secrets has just implicated Miranda in the murder of a local business mogul.

Miranda will have to face her innermost fear to clear her name and save herself from a viral death on social media.