“Somehow I could in no way dispel the feeling of utter dread and desolation”

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England. On April 11, it arrived in Queenstown, Ireland before setting sail for New York. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship struck an iceberg and sank in the early hours of April 15. Of the 2,28 onboard, only 705 survived. They were picked up by the S.S. Carpathia around 4 a.m.

Masabumi Hosono

Masabumi Hosono (October 15, 1870-March 14, 1939) was the only Japanese passenger on the RMS Titanic. He was born in Nīgata, Japan in 1870. After graduating from the Tokyo Higher Commercial School and a brief time at Mitsubishi, he joined the Ministry of Communications in 1897. He was a civil servant working for the Japanese Ministry of Transportation. He was sent to Russia in 1910 to research their railway system. On the way back to Japan, he went to London and lived there for a short time, intending to return to Japan via the U.S.

He boarded the Titanic in Southampton on April 10 as a second class passenger. Hosono did not wake up when the ship struck an iceberg and only when a steward entered and instructed him to put on a lifejacket. Hosono was blocked when he tried to get to the boat deck, who probably assumed he was a third class passenger. Hosono eventually slipped passed the crew to the deck where emergency flares were being fired.

When an officer shouted that there was room for two more on Lifeboat 10, Hosono and another man jumped in. While Hosono claimed that his was the last lifeboat to leave the Titanic, his was the second from the last. Around 8 a.m. on April 15, the RMS Carpathia arrived and rescued the survivors.

Hosono went to San Francisco and asked friends for help in returning to Japan. He received little press attention. The Japanese press dubbed Hosno the “lucky Japanese boy”. He was interviewed by several magazines and newspapers, including photographs of him and his family. But he soon went from famous to infamous when Archibald Gracie’s account branded him as a ‘stowaway.” Additionally, Edward Buley, an Able Seaman on the Titanic told the US Senate Inquiry that Hosono and the other man who boarded Lifeboat 10 must have disguised themselves as women to board the lifeboat. This false report did not feature in the Japanese media.

After this press coverage, Hosono lost his job and the Japanese press condemned him for cowardice. The public also had a hostile reaction, stating that he “betrayed the Samurai spirit of self-sacrifice.” He was accused of pushing others aside to board a lifeboat. But the ministry later gave him back his job because of his valuable skill and he worked for them until he died in 1939.

The Hosono family regained its honor in 1997 when an investigation revealed that the story of Hosono was false. Matt Taylor, who organized the Exhibition Titanic Japan which opened in July 1997, discovered a latter Hosono wrote to his wife after the sinking. In it, he explained that a ship’s officer urged him into a lifeboat and he helped row the lifeboat away from the sinking ship, saving their lives. The letter also refused the Japanese press’s claim that Hosono as the Asian man aboard lifeboat 13 who rushed to escape. Taylor found the letter in Hosono’s belongings and persuaded his family to allow it to be translated and released. His account is “considered to be among the most expressive and detailed renderings of the panic aboard the ill-fated ship.” It is believed to be the only piece of Titanic stationary to have survived.

His memoirs were also on display at the Yokohama Minato Museum in from April 19-May 18, 2014, one of a rare collection of Titanic artifacts. Hosono wrote his account on paper bearing Titanic’s name and seal.


Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche (May 26, 1886 – April 15, 1912) was a Haitian man who grew up in the northern part of the country. In 1901, when he was fifteen, he accompanied his teacher Monseigneur Kersuzan to France. Laroche attended the engineering school in Beauvais. While there, he accompanied Monseigneur Kersuzan to visit his friend Monseigneur Lafarge. Laroche became friends with his daughter Juliette. They married in March 1908 after Joseph graduated and got his engineering certificate. However, Laroche could not find employment because of racial prejudice.

Their daughters Simonne and Louis were born in 1909 and 1910. Louise suffered from many medical problems and in 1911, Laroche decided to return to Haiti, where he believed there would be great need for qualified engineers. They planned to go the following year. When Juliette discovered she was pregnant in March 1912, they moved their travel plans up and booked passage on the French CGT’s newest steamship on her maiden voyage to New York. To Laroche’s dismay, he found that company policy did not allow children in the ship’s restaurant. They transferred to the White Star Line’s Titanic which left ten days earlier.

After the ship hit the iceberg, Laroche put the family’s valuables into a coat and gave it to his wife before putting her and their daughters on a lifeboat. Juliette and the girls survived, but Laroche stayed, helping others safety and presumably drowned, though his body was never found. Juliette and the children eventually returned to France after World War II, living in poverty until she won a settlement.

Though the Laroche daughters never married, the son Joseph Jr. (Born: December 17, 1912) married a woman named Caludine and had two sons and a daughter. It wasn’t until 1995 when a French member of the Titanic Historical Society interviewed Juliette that the story began to spread. That year, the family was featured at the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Marjorie Alberts of California discovered her connection to the Laroche family around 2000. Her stepmother found an article in Ebony magazine. She showed it to her husband Robert Richard who explained that his father’s surname had been Laroche, but because he and his mother never married, they did not have his surname. After some research, Alberts learned that Joseph Laroche’s grandfather Henri Cadet Laroche – a cobbler who made boots for Haiti’s first king – was married 11 times. Joseph was born to Laroche’s eleventh wife, while Alberts’s and her family were descended from Laroche and his first wife. Alberts, an actress and writer was working on a screenplay about Laroche.

Serge Bile’s Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche published in 2019 tells his story.


Victor Gaitan Andrea Giglio (June 17, 1888-April 15, 1912) was valet to millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim.

Giglio was born in Liverpool to FJ Giglio, an Italian and a woman who may have been Egyptian, from Alexandria. The couple lived in Alexandria for several years before moving to England, first living in London before ending up in Liverpool.

He was the youngest of four brothers. Though there is no information about the family, given that Alexandria and Liverpool were both important in the sea trade, the family may have been in the shipping business.

Giglio traveled with Guggenheim in first class while Guggenheim’s chauffeur traveled in second class.

When the ship hit the iceberg, the pair put on their lifejackets and went up to the deck. When they realized their fate, Guggenheim told a survivor: “No woman should be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.” They assisted women and children into the lifeboats. Then, they returned to their cabins, changed into evening dress and sat on deck chairs, sipping brandy and smoking cigars as the ship sank. Survivors recalled Guggenheim saying: “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”

After the Titanic sank, pupils at Ampleforth College, the Benedictine boarding school in Yorkshire where Guglio was educated, left tributes to him.

In 2012, Father Anselm Cramer, Chief Archivist at Ampleforth College discovered a photograph of Giglio taken in 1901. This discovery showed that Guglio was dark-skinned, leading experts to speculate that Guggenheim stayed with Guglio because they knew that he would not be allowed to board a ‘first-class’ lifeboat because of his race and chose to stay with him.

“I still paint according to my own ideas”

March is Youth Art Month originated as Children’s Art Month in 1961, which the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) created to show children the value of visual art education. Eight years later, secondary school students were added and it was re-named Youth Art Month. Youth Art Month recognizes that art is necessary for developing a better quality of life and fosters critical thinking. Youth Art Month also encourages commitment to and creating opportunities and support for art and art education. In 1984, ACMI created The Council for Art Education (CFAE) a non-profit that advocates for visual art education, which coordinates national Youth Art Month. There are local and state events at libraries, museums and state capitol buildings. As of 2018, New York has received an award honoring New York State (NYS) art educators at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference. The 2018/2019 theme is “Your Art, Your Story”.


Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann, known as Angelica Kauffman (October 30, 1741-November 5, 1807) was the daughter of muralist Johann Joseph Kauffman, who trained her. During the 1760s, she worked as her father’s assistant, traveling with him through Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. This allowed her to copy classical and Renaissance paintings and meet leaders in the burgeoning movement, Neoclassicism. She stayed in Italy for three years, gaining a reputation as a portrait painter. She also painted history paintings.

She was elected to the Rome’s Accademia di San Luca in 1765, to recognize her accomplishments. The following year, she moved to London and immediately became successful as a portrait painter. She was one of two women founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and held regular exhibitions there, working for many aristocratic and royal patrons. She married painter Antonio Zucchi in 1781. He succeeded her father as her business manager. When she died, her funeral was directed by Antonio Canova, a famous Neoclassical sculptor who based it on the funeral of the Renaissance painter Raphael.

Wang Yani (Born: 1975) is a painter, whose father is a self-taught oil painter. He gave up his painting to prevent his style from influencing hers, and to help promote her career.

Wang began painting when she was two and had her first exhibit by six. By 1989, she had shows in West Germany, Britain, and Japan. She gave her painting “Impressions of the Zoo,” which she did at fourteen, to the city of San Francisco in 1989 when she was 14. It was done in the xieyi or “idea writing style,” depicting a flock of flamingos at the zoo. Her work was displayed across the U.S. over several months. That year, she became the youngest person to give a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, with a show at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery for Asian art in Washington. The exhibit was called “Yani: The Brush of Innocence” and ran from June to October 1989.

In 1991, she returned to the U.S. to promote a children’s book about her life and paintings, A Young Painter: The Life and Paintings of Wang Yani-China’s Extraordinary Young Artist by Zheng Zhensun and Alice Low. It was written after Zheng Shensun, a journalist and photographer visited Wang’s family home in rural Guocheng.

By 16, Wang had completed more than 10,000 paintings, and only a few, done during overseas visits and donated to foreign institutions were sold.

Edmund Thomas Clint (May 19 1976-April 15, 1983) was an Indian boy. He, like Wang, began drawing at 2, using, using crayon, oil paint, and water color. At 5, he won a competition for painters under 18. By the time he died, a month before turning 7, he had painted over 25,000 pictures. He is the subject of a biography A Brief Hour of Beauty.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors, And People Helping People

March is Social Work Month. The White House officially recognized National Professional Social Work Month in 1984. That year’s theme was “Listen to the Children.” The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) selected an annual theme, on topics such as hate crimes, violence prevention, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS.

The 2019 theme is “Elevate Social Work” to “recognize the extraordinary contributions of the profession to our society.” The NASW estimates that there will be “more than 682,000 people expected to be employed as social workers by 2026.” Social workers are the “largest group of providers of mental health services in the United States and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs the most social workers with advanced degrees. For more than a century, social workers have helped people with issues such as voting rights, workplace safety, minimum wage and welfare programs, and equal rights for women, LGBTQ individuals, African Americans, Latinos, those with disabilities, and other groups.

Hidiya Hanim Barakat (1898–1969) was an Egyptian philanthropist and social worker who began working with a team of women in the 1920s. Her organization set up clinics, hospitals, schools, and orphanages in most of the major towns, and providing relief during epidemics.

She was the daughter of a former magistrate and palace official and had a privileged upbringing, educated at the French convent Nôtre Dame de la Mère de Dieu until she was thirteen. At twenty, she married Bahaieddine Barakat, a lawyer and member of the leading political family, and who later served as a government minister. Her in-laws used her welfare activities to disseminate Wafdist (nationalist) literature.

Through her court connections, Barakat helped a princess organize a group of philanthropic women, who set up medical clinics in poor parts of Cairo in 1908. Among them was Huda Sha’rawi, daughter of Muhammad Sultan, who created social organizations for women and protested British colonial rule.

In 1909, they named their organization Mabarrat Muhammad Ali (Muhammad Ali the Great Philanthropic Association), known as the Mabarrat. It worked to provide health care especially to rural areas and combat the high infant mortality rate. In 1919, Bakarat founded the Society of the New Women, to teach trades and child care, and establishing orphanages. As one of the leading figures of the feminist movement, Barakat also helped create the “Société de la Femme Nouvelle”, setting up girls’ schools across the countryside.

By the 1950s, the Mabarrat was the biggest, widest-reaching organization in Egypt, and after Nasser’s government was toppled in 1952, Bakarat was elected president of the Mabarrat. Several Egyptian institutions SUCH AS are named after her.

A few days before she did, she was given the highest decoration for organized a clinic, dispensary, and hospital in nearly every major Egyptian town.


Gwendolyn Margaret Lizarraga, MBE (11 July 1901 – 9 June 1975) was Belize’s first female cabinet minister.

Belize is located in Central America, between Guatemala and Mexico and bordering the Caribbean Sea. Its earliest known inhabitants were the Mayans, between 250 and 900 CE, reaching its peak around the 8th century. The numbers declined by the 16th century when the Spanish arrived, and many of those who remained died of diseases the Spanish introduced, or were sent to Guatemala.

The Spanish moved out of the area, and the British moved in the 1670s. The British began cutting logwood to export to Europe, going further inland to cut mahogany and cedar. The Spanish and British fought for control, until the Spanish lost in 1798. Nearly fifty years later, the Mayans revolted against the Spanish in what is now Mexico and Mayans, dissident Spaniards, and Mestizos (those of mixed Spanish and Mayan ancestry) refugees fled to what is now Belize. To resolve tensions, the settlement requested to become a British colony and was renamed British Honduras in 1862. It became a colony in 1870.

In 1954, the first general elections were held. The People’s United Party (PUP) won. In February 1954, Gwendolyn Lizarraga formed the United Women’s Group (UWG), the women’s arm of the party, to advocate for social justice and empowerment of women. During the 1950s, before the Universal Adult Suffrage, only property owners were allowed to vote so Lizarraga assisted women in acquiring their own house and lot. There were 1,400 (UWG) members by May 1959.

Gwendolyn Lizarraga was the first woman to run for office in Belize. She ran for the Pickstock Division in 1961, one of five challengers. She won 69% of the vote. She became the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services. She was elected for a second therm as Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services in 1965, and a third term in 1969. During this term, she became involved in improving housing conditions and providing youth education. During her time as Minister of Education, the first Junior Secondary School was established in 1968 which was later re-named Gwen Lizarraga High School. Lizarraga was also the first woman to be elected to the National Assembly and first female minister.

Despite the elections, it was not until 1864 that British Honduras became self-governing. The government seat was moved from Belize City to Belmopan in 1971, and the country’s name was named to Belize in 1973. Belize finally gained its independence on 21 September 1981.

One of the few books written about social work is Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. I was lucky enough to get my copy autographed when Fadiman visited a friend’s English class, which her husband taught. 

With weary feet the paths of pain


Horace Pippin (February 22, 1888 – July 6, 1946), was a self-taught African-American painter whose subject matter ranged from trench warfare to historical, and religious.

He was born West Chester, Pennsylvania until he was three when his family moved to Goshen, New York. He left school at fifteen to support his ailing mother. After she died, he moved to New Jersey and worked various jobs before enlisting in the army in 1917. During the war, he recorded his experiences, including drawings. His papers are housed at the Archives of American ArtHe seriously wounded his right arm in France and received the French Croix de Guerre. He left the army in 1919 and married the following year before returning to West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Pippin’s injury led him to explore other artistic expressions, including pyrography, or burnt-wood panels (he drew on wood using hot pokers). But he preferred oil painting and it became a form of therapy to deal with his memories from the war. In the early 1930s, he completed an oil panting on the about his experiences, called The End of the War: Starting Home.

He was the first black painter to use art to express concerns about war and sociopolitical injustice, and to have his paintings accepted by the West Chester County Art Association. He became known regionally and in 1939 his fame spread when the Robert Carlen Galleries of Philadelphia became his dealer. The following year, Pippin gave sporadic lectures at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. His most renowned works include three paintings of the abolitionist John Brown. He also created a series of paintings based on the Bible and the works of the Quaker painter Edward Hicks.

In 1938, the Museum of Modern Art included four of Pippin’s paintings in a traveling exhibit. By the time he died in 1946, he had solo shows in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, had won prizes in important contemporary art shows had become famous internationally, and sold most of his 130 paintings, wood panels, and drawings to museums and influential collectors across the country.

You can help transcribe his writings through the Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program. 


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825–February 22, 1911) was a poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist. She was born in Baltimore, the only child of free black parents. She attended the Academy for Negro Youth, which her uncle founded, until age 13. Then she went to work in a Quaker household where she read a wide range of literature.

In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required escaped slaves who were captured to be returned to their masters. Harper moved to Ohio and began teaching at the Union Seminary, a new school for black children in Columbus. The principal was abolitionist John Brown. Harper was the first black woman to teach vocational courses at the school, teaching domestic and homemaking skills.

In 1851, Harper moved to Pennsylvania and worked with William Still, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which helped slaves escape to Canada on the Underground Railroad. She became a traveling speaker on abolition and wrote for anti-slavery newspapers, becoming the “mother of African American journalism.”

She was a prolific writer who published many poetry collections, such as Autumn Leaves (also published as Forest Leaves) (1845); Sketches of Southern Life (1872), about the post-Civil War (1861-1865) Reconstruction and novels, including Iola Leroy (1892), essay collections, and short stories, such as “The Two Offers,” the first short story published by an African American.

She married Fenton Harper in 1860. After he died in 1864, Harper continued to support her family though speaking engagements. She championed civil rights, women’s rights, and educational opportunities for all. She was superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women, and a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, and director of the American Association of Colored Youth. Harper died nine years before women gained the right to vote.

“In the end we must live independent or die”


In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson travelled from Chicago to DC to participate in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the emancipation proclamation. He was among the thousands of black people who went to see the exhibit which highlighted the progress made since slavery had been abolished. The event inspired Woodson who formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to “to promote the scientific study of black life and history.”

The following year, he established the Journal of Negro History, and encouraged black civic organizations to promote researchers’ findings. In 1924, his fraternity brothers at the Omega Psi Phi, created Negro History and Literature Week, later renamed Negro Achievement Week. Wanting to reach a wider audience, Woodson decided in 1925 that the ASNLH would take over and announced Negro History Week in February, 1926.

February was chosen for several reasons: 1. It included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, which black communities had celebrated for several decades. However, Woodson wanted to broaden the scope. He believed that the focus should be on “the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization.” The response was overwhelming. Teachers solicited materials and history clubs were established, and soon mayors issued proclamations for Negro History Week.

Over the next decades, efforts to expand Negro History Week increased and in many communities Negro History Week became Negro History Month. In 1976, Negro History Week became Black History Month, and, because of the ASNLH’s efforts, since the mid-1970s, every president has issued a proclamation endorsing the annual theme.


Haiti is often left out of Black History Month. The first inhabitants of what are now Haiti and the Dominican Republic were the Taíno, who may have arrived as early as 4000 BCE. Other indigenous groups from present-day Venezuela joined them and settled across the Caribbean. The Taino name for the island was Ay-ti meaning “land of mountains.” Columbus re-named it La Isla Española (‘The Spanish Island’) when he arrived in 1492, which evolved to Hispaniola.

The Spanish brought sugar cane from the Canary Islands, causing a significant increase in West African slaves in the early sixteenth century. This led to the first major slave revolt in the Americas in 1522. The uprising occurred at the sugar plantation of Diego Colón, Christopher Columbus’s son. Many slaves escaped to the mountains and form the first communities of freed slaves. The communities grew as more imported slaves escaped. This instability led the French to establish control of parts of the island and the nearby island of La Tortue (Tortuga) in the early 1600s. In 1664, France formally claimed the western portion of Haiti, which they called Saint-Domingue. Thy too, established plantations, with coffee in addition to sugar, importing millions of Africans as slave labor. As with the Spanish, thousands escaped into the mountains and established free settlements. By 1790 there were more than 500,000 enslaved Africans, 28,000 free gens de couleur, the free, mostly mixed-race intermediate class, and about 30,000 Europeans (mostly French), who held all political and economic power.

In August 1791, enslaved Africans in the north rebelled and the revolution spread. A Haitian born man Toussaint L’Ouverture soon took control and formed alliances with the gens de couleur and the escaped slaves. By 1794, L’Ouverture’s forces had liberated the colony from French control. In response, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a contingent of French troops in 1801 to subdue the colony and reinforce slavery. L’Ouverture was captured and taken to France where he died in prison the next year.

But this was not the end. Others took up the cause and the French army defeated. On January 1, 1804, Haiti declared its independence. It became the second independent republic in the New World after the United States and was re-named Hayti (Haiti). The 1805 Constitution, which reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, made Haiti the first free black state in the Western hemisphere. Official racial distinctions were eliminated, and all Haitians were considered black.

France refused to recognize Haiti’s independence until the 1830s when Haiti agreed to pay 150 million francs (over $21 billion) to compensate French plantation owners for their losses. This plunged the Haitian government into debt, truing it from one of France’s wealthiest colonies to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. In 1844, the eastern two-thirds of the island declared its independence and became the Republic of Santo Domingo (today, the Dominican Republic). The United States did not recognize the nation until 1862.

In 1915, during the First World War, the United States, which already controlled the Dominican Republic, invaded Haiti. The occupation ended in 1934 and was then controlled by a mixed-race minority. In 1957, Dr François Duvalier was elected by popular vote. However, his regime was soon being criticized for its harsh treatment of political adversaries. When he died in 1971, his 19-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier took control.

On February 7, 1986, Jean-Claude Duvalier, the “president for life” of Haiti, who had succeeded his father in 1971 at 19, fled to France after an uprising against the dictator. Five years later, on February 7, 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first democratically-elected president of Haiti. However, Aristide’s time in office was also not without controversy, with rumours of human rights abuse, drug trafficking, and other crimes. He was ousted by a coup in 1991, returned to power in 1994 to finish his term, then re-elected in 2001. But he was ousted in another coup in 2004 before going into exile in South Africa, which he is forbidden to leave, until he was permitted to return to Haiti in 2011. In March 2017, Aristide survived a possible assassination attempt in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Julia Gaffield, a Canadian graduate student at Duke University, found “the first known, government-issued version of Haiti’s founding document” in the British National Archives. She found the eight page document in a leather-bound binder of Jamaican records from 1804.


On February 7, 2013, Mississippi became the last state in the United States to certify the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. The resolution was ratified in 1995 but was never sent to the U.S Archivist. The error was discovered after a Mississippi resident Ranjan Batra saw the film Lincoln, which includes the fight the pass the Thirteenth Amendment. Batra did some research and learned that the amendment was ratified after three-fourths of the states approved it in December 1865. The other states did, though Mississippi did not ratify it until 1995. But the amendment was never made official because the U.S. Archivist was not notified, though the reasons are unclear. The Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann sent a copy of the resolution to the Office of the Federal Register on January 30 and the Federal Register made the ratification official on February 7, 2013.

“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”


Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, pen name Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922), was one of, if not the first investigative journalists in the United States.

Cochrane was born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, which her father Judge Cochrane founded. She was one of fifteen children born to her father and his two wives. When she was fifteen, he died intestate, leaving the family with little money. Her journalistic career began after Erasmus Wilson published an article “The Quiet Observer” in his Pittsburgh Dispatch, denouncing women in the workforce. Cochrane, calling herself the “Lonely Orphan Girl,” angrily responded that there needed to be a wider definition of a “woman’s sphere,” especially for those who had to support their families. Editor George Madden ran a notice asking the “Orphan Girl” to contact him, and he gave her a job. She joined the staff, signing her articles “Nellie Bly.”

She earned $5 per week, writing a “women’s column” for the Pittsburgh Dispatch on home, gardening, society, child-rearing and other similar topics. Eventually, she began to write about more serious issues, including investigating how divorce affected women. In time, her journalistic talents earned her $25,000 per year.

She soon moved to New York to pursue other subjects and freelanced for several months. Then she wrote a piece on the difficulty of female reporters had finding work in New York, in which she interviewed the great editors of the time. This led to her first assignment with the New York World, where Joseph Pulitzer had begun what became known as “new journalism.” He wanted Bly to pretend to be insane to get committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island. Bly stayed there for ten days and wrote a two-part series in October 1887 about the horrendous conditions. This was the beginning of a decades of “stunt” reporting, a predecessor to investigative journalism. This genre allowed women to demonstrate that they could also be reporters, and they became the first women to enter mainstream journalism in the twentieth century.

Bly went on to investigate employment agencies for domestic servants, the baby-buying trade and corruption in the New York legislature. But her biggest feat was yet to come. In November 1889, Bly began the journey that would cement her fame. She beat the fictional record of Jules Verne’s Phineas Fogg, in his novel Around the World in 80 Days when she made the trip in 72 days 6 hours 11 minutes. She chronicled her journey in New York World. But when she was not rewarded for her efforts, Bly quit and accepted a three-year contract for N.L Munro’s New York Family Story Paper writing serial fiction. This proved unsuccessful and she returned to the World in 1893, interviewing Emma Goldman and Eugene V. Debs, and covering stories such as the march of Jacob Coxey’s Army on Washington and the Pullman strike in Chicago.

She left the World a for the last time in 1895 and after a short time at the Chicago Times-Herald, she married Robert Livingston Seaman who was more than forty years older. The marriage lasted nine years until Seaman died. During that time, Bly took over his iron enamel-ware firm, the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. and patented, manufactured, and marketed the steel barrel in the United States. While Bly was hopeless at finances and eventually lost the company, the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. gave its employees health benefits and provided recreational facilities.

To earn some money, Bly went to Vienna in August 1914 where she stayed until 1919, writing for the New York Evening Journal from the Russian and Serbian fronts. After the war, she returned to New York and wrote for the Evening Journal, running an advice column. Her most celebrated work was placing illegitimate children in good homes and campaigning for seamen who were having trouble finding work.

Bly died of pneumonia in 1922 at 57.

Her experiences are chronicled in her many books, including: Six Months in Mexico (1886), Ten Days in a Madhouse (1887), The Mystery of Central Park (1889), and Nellie Bly’s Book: Around the World in Seventy-two Days (1890).

In 2018, the Newseum opened its “Nellie Bly: The Virtual Reality Experience” which tracks Bly from Egypt to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, San Francisco and her adventures, including a snowstorm in Singapore that nearly impeded her progress. The exhibit provides background on Bly’s previous reporting and chronicles accomplishments in the women’s rights movement.

This is the Newseum’s second exhibit on Bly. The first was a 4-D introductory film (now playing only in 2-D), which recounts the undercover operation in 1887.


On January 25, 1881, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell founded the world’s first telephone company, the Oriental Telephone Company. Though he was credited with inventing the first telephone, the United States Congress recognized in 2002 that it was Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant, who invented the telephone. He began developing the talking telegraph, or telephone in 1849. In 1871, he filed a caveat (announcing an invention), but could not review his caveat. On June 11, 2002, the Unite States House of Representatives passed a Resolution honoring Meucci’s work.

Thirty-four years after founding the Oriental Telephone Company, on January 25, 1915, Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental telephone call, from New York City to San Francisco, more than 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles) away.

When Bell made the call to Watson, his former assistant, he was asked to re-enact the first conversation they had on March 10, 1876, when Bell said, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” However, there is some discrepancy as to whether Bell said, “Watson, come here, I want you,” or “Come here, I need you.” Though that might be a fiction, as Bell had just spilled battery acid on himself before summoning Watson. This time Watson replied, “It would take me a week now.”

“The legal world does not discriminate by sex or race and this is possibly an example of it working rather well.”

rose heilbron

On January 4, 1972, Dame Rose Heilbron (August 19 1914-December 8 2005) became the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey in London, England.

Heilbron was born into a Jewish family in Liverpool Her father was a hotelier who managed a lodging house for Jewish émigrés. Her mother, Nellie, who died in 1939, encouraged her educational ambitions.

She achieved a number of firsts for women during her legal education and career. She graduated from Liverpool University in 1935 with a first-class honours degree in law and became first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn the next year, when she received the Lord Justice Holker scholarship. In 1937, she received a master of laws degree and joined the bar in 1939, as a member of the northern circuit.

Through the six years of World War II, and afterward, Heilbron’s career rose. By 1946, Heilbron had appeared in 10 murder trials. In 1949, at 34, Heilbron and Helena Normanton, who was nearly twice her age, became the first women king’s counsel. That year, Heilbron became the first woman to lead in an English murder case. She defended the gangster George Kelly, accused of shooting and killing the deputy manager of the Cameo cinema in Liverpool. Kelly was convicted and hanged, but through the first half of the 1950s, Heilbron successfully defended many of her clients. One case involved four men accused of hanging a boy during a burglary, which she proved that it had been an accident, and another was Louis Bloom the Hartlepool solicitor accused of murdering his mistress in his office.

In 1956, she became the first woman recorder (chief criminal judge) of Burnley, in Britain, and the first woman judge at the Old Bailey in 1972. Two years later, she was created a dame in 1974. From 1974 until she retired in 1988 she served as a Judge of the High Court (Family Division), the second British woman to be appointed to the High Court. In 1985, she became treasurer at Gray’s Inn, saying of her appointment, “The legal world does not discriminate by sex or race and this is possibly an example of it working rather well.”

Her daughter Hilary Heilbron has written a book about her, Legal Pioneer of the 20th Century: Inspiring Advocate who became England’s First Woman Judge published in 2012.


On January 4, 2007, the 110th United States Congress convened, electing Nancy Pelosi (Born: March 26, 1940) as the first female Speaker of the House. Her family has served in public positions. Her father and brother were both Baltimore mayors, and her father also served in the state Congress.

In 1976, she worked on California Governor Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign. By 1981, she was the Democratic Party chair for California, recruiting candidates and raising funds. The following year, States Representative Sala Burton of California – a Polish émigré who fled the Nazis and settled in America and filled her husband’s Congressional after he died suddenly – encouraged Pelosi to run for her seat after she died. Pelosi filled the vacancy in 1987 and has been re-elected to sixteen succeeding Congresses (June 2, 1987-present).

Pelosi has served on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations committee. In 2001, she was promoted to the House Democratic whip, the second highest position in the party. She rose to minority leader in 2002 when Dick Gephardt stepped, becoming the first woman to ever lead a party in Congress.

In 2006, Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House and was sworn in on January 4, 2007. But she lost her position to Republican John Boehner in 2010 when Democrats lost control of the House. Under Pelosi, the 111th Congress (January 3, 2009, until January 3, 2011) became “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein.