Local Woman Getting NYC Statue

I read today that a New York City-based organization is going to erect a statue of Nellie Bly on Roosevelt Island.

Have you ever heard of Nellie Bly? This was the pen name for investigative journalist Elizabeth Cochran. Bly was born in Armstrong County, PA, in 1864. Bly started her journalism career in Pittsburgh in the 1880’s. She got bored with her Pittsburgh gig, moved to New York City, and begged Joseph Pulitzer to give her a job at the New York World.

In 1887, Bly convinced law enforcement officers that she suffered from a mental illness in order to gain admittance to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island) in New York. Bly remained as a patient there for ten days. She reported on the institution’s abhorrent conditions in an expose for the World.

Bly also travelled around the actual world as a reporter for the World.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post story that I read today about Nellie Bly’s investigative work, and on her pending statue.

Even though Bly was a pioneering woman from Western PA, I didn’t learn about her at my own school in Western PA. I found out about her by accident when I was about ten or twelve and I read one of my mom’s old junior high textbooks from the 1960’s.

Years later, my husband and I travelled to Apollo, PA, to see the Victorian house where Jimmy Stuart’s maternal grandparents once lived. By coincidence, we parked along the street in front of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker for Nellie Bly. The marker commemorated Bly’s own childhood home.

You can read all about Bly and her remarkable career on Wikipedia.

Here’s the thing that first caught my attention about Nellie Bly when I was a kid: Bly was born into relative privilege. Her father was a successful merchant and community leader. Bly received an elite education for a woman of that time. However, when Bly’s father passed away, Bly and her mother struggled financially. Bly and her mother couldn’t easily go out and get their own jobs.

Now, I know of people who claim on Facebook that women didn’t work outside of the house in the “olden days.” Women certainly did work outside of the house in the 1800’s. Women earned their own incomes doing sewing, housekeeping, domestic work, laundry, childcare, nursing, teaching, acting, agricultural work, factory work, sex work, etc. (And of course, enslaved women worked for no compensation!) However, “privileged” women of a high social status had very few options for earning their own incomes without being ostracized by their networks.

(In fact, I read that after Dolley Madison’s first husband, a lawyer, died in Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 but before she married James Madison a year later, she had to take in sewing in order to buy food for herself and her young son.)

Nellie Bly talked (or wrote) her way into a Pittsburgh reporting job. Then, she gave it up at a great risk so that she could talk (or write) her way into a New York reporting job.

I bet that we can all name sports “heros” who were born in Western PA. So why isn’t “Nellie Bly” a household name in Western PA?

Thank you for sticking with me as I flesh out some of my thoughts about a woman who demanded her own seat at the table! Stay in touch for my upcoming sailing updates and stories from history.

The Next Together

I went looking for books that “seemed to be similar” to Green Darkness by Anya Seton. This, I mean books about sweethearts who lost each other in one time period, were reincarnated, and found each other in another time.

I found The Next Together by Lauren James.

The Next Together followed two sweethearts, Katherine and Matthew, as they lived through four time periods: The Siege of Carlisle, England, during the Jacobite rising in 1745; The Crimean War in 1854; a British government conspiracy in June 2019; and a second British government conspiracy in 2039.

Several times, Katherine and Matthew parted in tragedy and found each other in the next life.

In my opinion, The Next Together qualified as: Young Adult (for mature teenagers), Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction. The book referenced sex and included a few off-color jokes. The book did not include graphic sex scenes.

I actually gave the book a not-great rating on one of the book rating websites. However, I blog about this book tonight because you might disagree with my reasons for the harsh rating.

I rated the book unfavorably for two reasons:

Reason #1: The Next Together ended with several loose ends. I can’t elaborate more without giving away spoilers. However, after I finished the book, I learned from reading the book’s other ratings that at least one sequel exists. This was not at all evident to me from the promotional material that I saw when I purchased the book. I saw absolutely nothing on the book’s jacket or opening pages that this was the first book in a set. I’m not happy that the book ended with loose ends and that I need to purchase at least one additional book in order to read a resolution. If I wanted to read a series, then I would have actively searched for a series.

Let me explain something: back in high school, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver ended with no clear resolution. I finished the book feeling annoyed and confused. I wondered if somebody tore the final pages out of the school library’s copy. Up until then, Lois Lowry was one of my absolute favorite authors. I discovered YEARS later that The Giver was actually the first book in a four-book series. Absolutely nothing on The Giver‘s jacket alerted me to this. We didn’t have the internet back then at my high school, so I couldn’t find this out via a Google search. I guess that I’m still slightly ticked off about this.

Reason #2: One of the protagonists concluded that society was better off because the Jacobite rising for Scottish independence ended the way that it did in 1745. I’m an American. I didn’t study the Jacobite rising in high school or college. I don’t have an opinion on the Jacobite rising. However, I’m under the impression that the issue of Scottish independence is still a touchy subject across the pond. I felt as if this author forced her own opinion on readers, especially the Young Adult readers.

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series also explored the Jacobite risings. So did Sir Walter Scott’s The Waverly Novels. So, you probably don’t agree with my reason #2.

By the way, the book listed a copyright of 2015. So, the author wrote this book prior to the 2016 United Kingdom Brexit vote, the 2016 United States presidential election, and the 2019 United Kingdom Conservative Party leadership election. Be assured that the protagonists made NO statements about Donald Trump, Brexit, or Boris Johnson.

Let me know if you read The Next Together.

Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond

You are all fantastic for reading my blog! I’ve had several readers reach out to me in the past month. I appreciate you all for taking precious time out of your full lives to digest my stories. I don’t want to let you down.

I will tell you a little bit more about our brief sailing adventures on Lake Erie. First, let me tell you about Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond.

The “Greater Erie, PA” region sits on the south shore of Lake Erie, and also on the south shore of Presque Isle Bay. Presque Isle Bay’s west and north boundaries exist due to a Peninsula that extends into Lake Erie.

To the west and the north of Presque Isle Bay is a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie. (On this peninsula now sits Presque Isle State Park. )

The Native Americans known as the “Eriez Nation” inhabited this area hundreds of years ago. The Iroquois defeated the Eriez in the 1600’s.

If you leave from Erie and head toward the open lake, then Erie (the city) will be on your starboard side and the peninsula will be on your port side.

You will travel past a monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry at Presque Isle State Park. Then, you will travel past Misery Bay.

Monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry

Then, you will travel through a shipping channel. Finally, you will pass the North Pier Lighthouse. Congratulations. You are on the open lake.

Perry commanded the U.S.’s Lake Erie naval fleet in 1813. This was during the War of 1812, the United States’ second war against the British. This U.S. naval fleet was at Presque Isle Bay when Perry took command. Perry’s forces broke a British blockade at Presque Isle. Then they defeated the British off of the Ohio coast at the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813.

Perry then returned to Presque Isle Bay.

Do you remember when I wrote that the bay next to the Perry monument is called “Misery Bay?” Well, the bay earned its name from what happened after the Battle of Lake Erie. Many returning sailors contracted smallpox and died in quarantine. They died aboard ships harbored in Misery Bay. The ones who didn’t get sick buried these sailors in the pond next to Misery Bay. Then, sailors who got sick but hadn’t yet died also got “buried” in the pond.

Local storytellers renamed the pond “Graveyard Pond.”

The navy sunk the hulls of two of their ships, the USS Lawrence and the USS Niagara, in Misery Bay for preservation.

In 1875, preservationists raised the Lawrence. They shipped her to Philadelphia. Exhibitors displayed the Lawrence at the U.S. Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the Lawrence at that same exhibition.

Preservationists raised and rebuilt the USS Niagara in 1913, then rebuilt her again in 1988. The reconstructed USS Niagara now sails regularly from her dock in Erie, past Misery Bay, on her way to the open lake.

Flagship Niagara Passes Fishermen on the North Pier

My husband, Jonathan, and I purchased our sailboat, S/V Pinniped, last autumn from the original owners, P. and M. In fact, P. built the boat himself from a set of plans. P. told us to be careful to stay away from Misery Bay when we travelled through the channel. Misery Bay is shallow, compared to the shipping channel. P. admitted that he actually grounded Pinniped on various sandbars in Misery Bay.

So of course, when we returned to the bay from our first sail together on the open lake, we accidentally steered into Misery Bay.

Misery Bay at that particular spot has a datum depth of four feet. Pinniped drafts five a half feet.

Fortunately for us, Lake Erie is high this summer. So, the actual depth on that spot on that day was seven and a half feet. We lucked out!

A week later, we again sailed onto the open lake. We sailed past a docked freighter before we left the bay.

Freighter

We sailed about one third of the way across Lake Erie.

And . . . we avoided steering into Misery Bay on the way back!

However, after several hours of sailing, the wind died and the flies appeared. Lots of flies. We motored for over an hour, covered in flies, to reach our slip at our marina. (For the record, we sprayed ourselves generously with bug spray. We still received fly bites.)

Despite Misery Bay and the flies, we both had positive experiences on both sailing trips. Stay tuned for more sailing adventures and more stories from history.

Meeting Aaron Burr in the Alleghenies

Scene from the Allegheny Mountains between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia

On July 11, 1804 – 215 years ago today – Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel. Alexander Hamilton died the next day.

Burr reportedly travelled west through Pennsylvania in the duel’s aftermath.

Later, Burr was accused of conspiring to found new empire and install himself as the leader. Burr allegedly travelled from Pittsburgh, down the Ohio River to Blennerhassett Island. Burr allegedly intended to stage a militia at Blennerhassett Island. Allegations swirled that other prominent Americans, including future POTUS Andrew Jackson, played a role in the Burr conspiracy.

From what I understand, Burr’s daughter Theodosia waited at Blennerhassett Island, thinking that her father would install her as his official hostess in this new empire. The Blennerhassett family had to flee from the island after the allegations came out against them and Burr.

Now, the Burr conspiracy allegedly happened in 1804/05 – 1807, and Aaron Burr was arrested in 1807 and tried for treason. A U.S. circuit court acquitted Burr.

I found a chance connection between Aaron Burr and the mother-in-law of ANOTHER future POTUS. Julia Dent Grant (JDG), the wife of future POTUS Ulysses S. Grant, was the first First Lady to write her own memoirs. Mrs. Grant’s memoirs were published years after her death.

In “The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant),” she wrote that her own mother, Ellen Bray Wrenshall Dent, grew up in Pittsburgh and travelled to Philadelphia to attend school.

Mrs. Grant wrote in her memoirs that Mrs. Dent told a story to her children about the time that she stopped in a tavern in the Allegheny Mountains and Aaron Burr was at that same tavern! Mrs. Dent remembered that Burr and “his army” showed kindness to her.

Actually, here is the quote from JDG’s memoirs: 

Mamma has told me of riding on horseback all the way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, where she was sent to school, and of once meeting Aaron Burr and his army in the Allegheny Mountains encamped around the little tavern which contained one room and a kitchen. This one room was, of course, occupied by the officers. Mamma, though much fatigued, was very loath to lie on the settle, or bench, before them all to rest until they pressed around and made for her a bed and a pillow of their cloaks and begged her to rest, telling her she would be just as safe there as in her mother’s arms. Lying down at last, they covered her with another martial cloak, and she slept as soundly as the princess in the fairy tale.

Now, I actually grew up in the Allegheny Mountains between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I never heard this story until I read JDG’s memoirs.

I wonder what year this occurred. Mrs. Dent was born in 1793. I am under the impression that Mrs. Dent would have been a schoolgirl in the first decade of the 1800’s. Keep in mind that Burr shot Hamilton in 1804. The Burr conspiracy allegedly happened in 1804/05 – 1807. Aaron Burr was arrested for treason in 1807.

So, was Burr in the process of planning the alleged Burr conspiracy when JDG’s mother saw him at the tavern? When JDG said “Aaron Burr and his army,” did JDG mean the militia that Burr allegedly raised for the conspiracy?

This story stands out to me because, in my mind, Mrs. Dent said to her children (including future FLOTUS Julia Dent Grant), “Did I ever tell you about that time that I met a very famous person? Wait until you hear about this!”

Now, keep in mind that Ellen Bray Wrenshall Dent passed away in 1857. The American Civil War started in 1861. Mrs. Dent’s son-in-law, General Ulysses S. Grant, captured Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862 and saw victory at Vicksburg in 1863. So, Mrs. Dent passed away before her own son-in-law became nationally famous.

Did you ever meet famous person? Was this person Aaron Burr-famous?

Social Media Rant

I tweeted photos of PNC Park during and after the rain.

This morning, my husband and I stood in pouring rain to catch a bus to our jobs in Pittsburgh.

The rain stopped long enough for us to disembark from the bus at our stops and walk to our offices.

Then, a second round of morning thunderstorms swamped Greater Pittsburgh.

Flash flooding and landslides closed roads here. We made the headlines on Weather Nation, even as the Gulf Coast prepared for a potential hurricane.

We learned throughout the day that our region got absolutely slammed by this morning’s flooding and that a third round of storms threatened the evening commute.

Now, my husband and I drive each day to a “Park and Ride” parking lot. We ride into Pittsburgh on the same bus. Then, my husband transfers to another bus for the third “leg” of his morning commute. We repeat this in the afternoon.

My husband and I – especially my husband – depend on tweets from our public transit agency about detours and delays to our bus routes. Our public transit agency is usually VERY active on Twitter.

More importantly, we depend on Allegheny County’s Twitter account in order to stay updated on road closures and detours between our workplaces and our house.

Finally, I check tweets from the National Weather Service’s Pittsburgh office about changing weather conditions.

Unfortunately, Twitter went down for several hours this afternoon.

The Twitter outage complicated things as we planned our evening commutes. This all worked out for us in the end. We arrived home safely after several traffic delays and detours.

However, how did this Twitter outage affect people who are trying to plan for the potential hurricane on the Gulf Coast?

I said to my husband, “It’s funny how quickly we’ve come to depend on a technology that I didn’t even have as a kid.”

To be clear, the internet did exist when I was a little kid. However, I didn’t know that the internet existed. I didn’t have access to the internet. Neither did anybody in my parents’ social network.

It concerns me now that I depend so much on social media, which is privately owned and controlled, for public safety information.

I need to figure out how to be less dependent on social media (and on the whole internet, really) in regards to my standard of living and my personal safety. I welcome any comments that you have on this.

My Sister Met Elizabeth Gilbert’s Sister

I have four sisters. Two of my sisters, K. and E., just went on a girls’ weekend together in West Virginia. I wasn’t there because I went sailing on Lake Erie with my husband. Anyway, K. remembered the time that she sat next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s sister at a library association luncheon. K. wrote this post on her own blog: The Story of the Time I Sat Next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Sister at Lunch.

1779 Sailing Mishap

FYI: NOT our boat.

Per my last post, my husband Jonathan and I recently purchased a 35 foot sailboat.

I didn’t grow up in a “boating family.” Neither did my husband. We both grew up in middle-class families with multiple kids and multiple priorities. About once a summer or so, my own parents rented for me and my sisters paddle boats, a rowboat, or perhaps a canoe from a PA State Park boat concession. My dad eventually purchased a used canoe from a boat concession auction.

When Jonathan and I were on our honeymoon, he purchased a kite. He flew his new kite on the beach. He told me that wind power fascinated him. He later confessed to me that sailboats and sailing actually fascinated him since childhood but that he was too shy to mention this to his parents.

We took a few sailing lessons on a Flying Scot at Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park in Western PA. We borrowed my parents’ canoe once. We purchased our own canoe / kayak hybrids.

Jonathan monitored Facebook for postings about boat sales. I learned that prospective boat buyers have no problem finding boats for sale at the end of summer, before prospective boat sellers need to store their boats for the winter. So, on one October Friday, Jonathan drove through several counties to meet the man selling a Flying Scot. By the end of that day, we owned our first sailboat.

That weekend gave us “hot” October weather. We took our “new” Flying Scot to Lake Arthur that Saturday. We rigged our new boat in the parking lot of Moraine’s public boat launch. We sailed and sailed. We noted that the sun started to set and that other boaters headed to shore. We headed to shore. Then . . . the wind died down.

Did I mention that our Flying Scot had no motor? Yeah, this is important. The wind powered our boat. After the wind died, we sat in the middle of the lake.

We sat there for about an hour. Then, Jonathan grabbed the boat’s sole oar and “paddled” us to shore. In the twilight. Then, we had to de-rig our sailboat in the dark, assisted by one flashlight.

That next summer, we returned to Lake Arthur with our Flying Scot and rented a slip at the marina’s dry dock. We sailed again. And again, the wind died on us. We found ourselves becalmed on Lake Arthur, with no motor, again.

Except, this time the wind died due to a very impending, severe thunderstorm. We saw the lightning as we sat, stationary, on the lake. Mother Nature mocked us.

I said a few angry things to Jonathan. He grabbed the oar and, once again, paddled us back to shore.

The storm’s downdraft actually pushed us the last few feet to the dock. We jumped off of the boat and ran through the rain to our truck. Then, we realized that our truck keys were still on our boat! So, Jonathan had to run back to the boat before we found shelter inside of our truck.

Jonathan is very lucky that I sailed with him again after this.

This summer we now have a sailboat docked in Erie, PA, on Lake Erie. I sailed with Jonathan ON THE OPEN LAKE twice. I have the experience of sitting becalmed on Lake Erie, covered in bug spray and swatting at biting flies. Thank destiny that we now own a motored boat!

After I first sailed, I collected the sailing mishaps noted in historical fiction AND nonfiction.

For instance, Aaron Burr’s only child, Theodosia Burr Alston, boarded the schooner Patriot in 1812. The ship sailed from South Carolina. It never arrived in New York City. History noted Theodosia Burr Alston as “disappeared” or “lost at sea.” Theories and folkore (see Wikipedia) abounded on the fate of “Dear Theodosia.” One famous legend involved pirates. In fact, one storyteller described Theodosia walking the plank to her death.

Now, for the promised 1779 sailing mishap, here is a passage from Chapter Five of “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation” by Cokie Roberts. This recounts John Jay and his wife Sally’s voyage to Spain after Congress named John Jay as Minister to Spain during the Revolutionary War:

“ Two months later, still aboard the ship and nowhere near Spain, Sally recounted their adventures to her mother. After being at sea a couple of weeks, she heard a terrible noise on the deck in the middle of the night: “We had been deprived of nothing less than our bow-spirit, main-mast and missen-mast . . . however our misfortunes were only begun, the injury received by our rudder the next morning served to complete them.” The ship was dismasted and rudderless, the seas were high, and winter was on the way. A council of ship’s officers concluded tht there was no way to reach Europe under those conditions, so they set course for the island of Martinique. It took a couple of weeks for the winds to get them going in the right direction, but, Sally cheerfully reported, “we are now in smooth seas having the advantage of trade winds which blow directly for the island . . . while our American friends are amusing themselves by a cheerful fireside, are we sitting under an awning comforting ourselves with the expectation of being soon refreshed by some fine southern fruits.”  . . . What she didn’t tell her mother was that she was pregnant. Stranded at sea, Sally and John threw a party, surprising and delighting fellow passengers. Finally, at the end of December, the ship limped into port in Martinique, where Sally was able to send off her letter home.”

Cokie Roberts, “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.”

Just imagine drifting around for several weeks on the ocean in a ship that lost most of its sails. And its rudder. Just hoping that the trade winds would blow the ship to Martinique before winter. With a navigation system from the late 1700’s. And no motor!

Maybe, if this happened in 2019, Sally Jay would tweet a selfie of herself on the disabled ship. “Can’t believe where I ended up. LOL.”  Followed by an interview with Anderson Cooper. (Or Cokie Roberts.)

Stay tuned for my next sailing update.

Erie, Pennsylvania

Houseboats in Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania

My husband, Jonathan, and I recently purchased a sailboat, S/V Pinniped. We dock Pinniped in Erie, PA. Here are Jonathan’s most recent updates on sailing:

Life with S/V Pinniped: Two Months in, Part 1

Life with S/V Pinniped: Two Months in, Part 2

A few years ago, Jonathan blogged about an Erie lighthouse:

Erie Land Light

Then, I wrote Don’t Give Up the Lighthouse; Erie Land Light Part II.

I also previously blogged about the time that we saw the U.S. Brig Niagara sail past us under full sail at Presque Isle State Park.

Jonathan and I actually left the bay and sailed on Lake Erie (the open lake!) for the first time together yesterday. Check back for future updates!