Did you know that Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ inspired a real life attempt to recreate that achievement? Nellie Bly, already a famous journalist for her exposé on the shameful treatment of female inmates in insane asylums, was given the task by her editor. She left in November 1889, and made the world circuit in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. She travelled by steamship, train, and just about every other land-based vehicle you can think of, as well as riding horses and donkeys. When she was in France, she met with Jules Verne; I would have loved to have been present at that meeting.
Nellie Bly also interviewed Susan B. Anthony, the suffragette and social activist. She supported the Suffragette Movement, writing such articles as “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors”. She married an industrialist, and took over the running of his business when he died. Late in her life, she became a social activist herself, helping poor women find jobs and homes, and looking to care for orphans and improve conditions in orphanages. She died in 1922.
Nellie is the perfect inspiration for Steampunk protagonist, either as herself or as the stepping off point for constructing your own character. She was obviously confident in her own abilities, and had a ‘can do’ attitude. She proves that Victorian women didn’t have to be special snowflakes, as she had plenty of courage and intelligence, and a strong sense of fairness. She remains an inspirational woman to this day.