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The Mad Girls of New York

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

A Nellie Bly Novel

By Maya Rodale

The Writing is Clever and Captivating



In 1887 Nelly Bly was an ambitious reporter for the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper when she left a note for her editor that she was headed to New York City to make her mark. Once there, she struggled to find work, facing rejection after rejection on newspaper row. After four months in New York and out of money, Nellie insinuated herself into the office of the editor of the New York World newspaper. There she pitched a story that only a woman could cover. Nellie proposed to fake insanity to be admitted to the women’s lunatic asylum on Blackwell Island. Once there, she would investigate reports of brutality and neglect rumored to occur.

To be committed to Blackwell, Nellie had to convince a police officer, a judge, and a doctor of her insanity. Once committed, Bly experienced the cruelty and deplorable conditions first hand. Her biggest fear: she would go insane before her editor was able to get her released.


THE MAD GIRLS OF NEW YORK is a poignant and revealing historical fiction novel based on the tenacious Nellie Bly. Bly will never be forgotten for her fight for justice for women. It’s always a pleasure to read about women like Bly who are full of strength and character. She is undoubtable the most famous American female reporter of the 19th century.

You can’t help but be enamored by the setting of the story. Seeing the island of Manhatten in 1887, through Nellie’s eyes is special. Nellie’s vivid descriptions of the Hall 6 on Blackwell Island will positively make you shiver.

Author Maya Rodale’s writing is clever and captivating. While the story is based on the facts of Nellie Bly’s writing and personality, she has taken liberties with Nellie’s time in Manhatten and at the asylum, to make the story even more compelling. Several characters are fictional but they are fashioned after real life persons who had lived either before or after Nellie’s time in New York.

Rodale’s portrayal of Nellie’s character is delightful, as well as her portrayal of three of Nellie’s fellow inmates, Prayer Girl, Tillie, and Princess.

Rodale writes funny, feminist historical fiction and romance novels. In the middle of the pandemic she was reading an out-of-print book published in 1965 about famous American women who defied conventions, when she became intrigued by the idea of a book about Nellie Bly.

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Berkley Publishing Group

Published April 26, 2022

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