Guest Post & Giveaway: The Girl Puzzle by Kate Braithwaite

Today on the blog I am stoked to be hosting a guest post from Kate Braithwaite, author of The Girl Puzzle! Kate is here to talk about Nellie Bly, and we have a giveaway too so be sure to enter!

The Girl Puzzle by Kate Braithwaite

Publication Date: May 5, 2019
Crooked Cat Books
eBook & Paperback; 263 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Her published story is well known. But did she tell the whole truth about her ten days in the madhouse?

Down to her last dime and offered the chance of a job of a lifetime at The New York World, twenty-three-year old Elizabeth Cochrane agrees to get herself admitted to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum and report on conditions from the inside. But what happened to her poor friend, Tilly Mayard? Was there more to her high praise of Dr Frank Ingram than everyone knew?

Thirty years later, Elizabeth, known as Nellie Bly, is no longer a celebrated trailblazer and the toast of Newspaper Row. Instead, she lives in a suite in the Hotel McAlpin, writes a column for The New York Journal and runs an informal adoption agency for the city’s orphans.

Beatrice Alexander is her secretary, fascinated by Miss Bly and her causes and crusades. Asked to type up a manuscript revisiting her employer’s experiences in the asylum in 1887, Beatrice believes she’s been given the key to understanding one of the most innovative and daring figures of the age.

"Novelist Braithwaite (The Road to Newgate, 2018, etc.) delivers a well-researched and engrossing tale that focuses on female empowerment. A story of grit and perseverance that will appeal to readers interested in the history of women in journalism." - Kirkus Reviews

Available at Amazon

A Hell of a Woman – Elizabeth Cochrane/Nellie Bly

By anyone’s estimate, Nellie Bly was a hell of a woman. Born in Pennsylvania in 1864, she got her break in journalism by writing a letter to her local paper, the Pittsburg Dispatch, challenging the sexist views of one of their columnists who had waxed lyrical about a ‘woman’s sphere’ and his sympathy for fathers with too many unmarried daughters on their hands. The columnist, the Quiet Observer, who would go on to be a lifelong friend to Nellie, had even written “In China they kill girl babies. Who knows but that this country may have to resort to this sometime.” Twenty-year old Elizabeth Cochrane (her real name) was provoked. Her impassioned letter earned her a job and her first published article, The Girl Puzzle, was a direct call for action on behalf of women. Instead of accepting that women had their place in the world, she called for greater opportunities, for recognition that girls were just as smart as boys - and “a great deal quicker to learn,” - and for women to be paid the same wages as men for the same work. That first article was published in 1885.

Nellie Bly was a woman who called out unfairness when she saw it. In her early twenties, travelling through Mexico and sending reports to the Dispatch, she had this to say about what she saw from the train window:

“Three days, from dawn until dark, we sat at the end of the car inhaling the perfume of the flowers and enjoying the glorious Western sights so rich in originality. For the first time I saw women plowing while their lords and masters sat on a fence smoking. I never longed for anything so much as I did to shove those lazy fellows off. As we got further south they had no fences. I was glad of it, because they do not look well ornamented with lazy men.”

She was way ahead of her time in the 1880’s. Nellie wanted a job on a New York newspaper at a time when no editor would employ a woman to write for anything other than fashion or society pages. Struggling to find a job, she interviewed the editors at all the top papers asking them their views on women. Her article, Women Journalists, published in August 1887, doesn’t paint a pretty picture. From Charles Dana, editor of The Sun, who thought a woman could not be relied upon to be as accurate as a man, to Bennett at the Herald who worried that a woman in the newsroom would inhibit the men (!!!), the prevailing attitude suggested Nellie had no hope of succeeding. But only three months later, she had landed a job at Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World - after an adventure, highly dangerous to her physical and mental well-being.

Nellie Bly’s belief that women were just as good as men - and in many ways better - didn’t change as she grew older. In 1913, she took part in the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington D.C. and also reported on the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson the following day. In typical Nellie Bly fashion, she sneaked up onto the platform where Wilson would be sworn in only a few minutes later. In the article for the New York Journal she recorded what she thought: “Will you and I,” she wondered, “ever see a woman stand there and take the oath of office?” That makes for interesting reading, some one hundred and six years later.

Nellie Bly was a feminist, an activist, a journalist, a business leader, a philanthropist with a sharp wit with a love of fashion and a great sense of humor. At times, writing about her was very challenging. How to do justice to someone so extraordinary? How to find the real person behind all the action? What made her who she was? What kind of person did the things that she did, with the level of conviction she had, whether she was right or wrong? After all, Nellie Bly was not always right. She was on the side of the Austrians, who were German allies, during World War II. She didn’t always tell the truth – she liked to lie about her age and was prone to exaggeration, for example in 1921 when she claimed to have found homes for thousands of orphans.

I’ve tried, within The Girl Puzzle – a story of Nellie Bly, to ask how Elizabeth Cochrane became Nellie. In the novel, Bly’s secretary Beatrice – something of a Nellie Bly fangirl, much as I am – types up Nellie’s third person account of her time in the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum in 1887, using her real name, Elizabeth. Anyone can read Nellie Bly’s own first person account of those days in her own words and I hope readers of the novel will do so. But Nellie Bly the reporter would never have described her experience the way Elizabeth can. She wouldn’t and she didn’t tell the full story. But in The Girl Puzzle, it’s all there: what got her to the point of taking on such a dangerous task, what living through those dark asylum days was like, and what happened to her after she was released.

I hope readers will try it, and enjoy spending time with Nellie Bly as much as I have!

About the Author

Kate Braithwaite grew up in Edinburgh but now lives with her family in the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania. Her daughter doesn’t think Kate should describe herself as a history nerd, but that’s exactly what she is. Always on the hunt for lesser known stories from the past, Kate’s books have strong female characters, rich settings and dark secrets.

The Girl Puzzle is her third novel.

For more information, please visit Kate's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, May 5
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 6
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 8
Feature at What Is That Book About

Thursday, May 9
Review at Orange County Readers

Friday, May 10
Review at Macsbooks

Monday, May 13
Interview at Bookish Rantings

Wednesday, May 15
Review at Kate Rock Lit Chick
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, May 17
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Coffee and Ink


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a signed copy of The Girl Puzzle by Kate Braithwaite! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Girl Puzzle

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