Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, was an American investigative journalist widely known for faking insanity in order to gain admission to an asylum on Blackwell Island (now Roosevelt Island). Once inside, she reported on the inhumane conditions the women were held in during treatment. Although she died of pneumonia aged 57 in 1922, Bly’s connection to the region has now been immortalized forever with a new monument in her honor.
“The Girl Puzzle,” a structure named after her first published work, is now open to the public at the tip of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island.
Comprised of five bronze faces – one by Bly and the others representing Asian American, Black, young, older and queer women – the monument also features words written by the journalist behind each face. The prints tell the stories of the women and praise their acts of courage and strength.
Additionally, in the middle of the structure, visitors will notice three silver globes, each meant to honor a specific moment in Bly’s career. Those who wish to embark on an audio-guided tour of the destination will be able to do so as well.
“Visitors to The Girl Puzzle will notice that some faces appear to be in pieces, while others appear to have been repaired,” reads an official press release for the artwork, which was designed by Amanda Matthews of Prometheus. Art to shed light on women. who have gone through hardships that have made them stronger. “It represents the prevalence of women broken by the world around them, having the strength to fix themselves.”
Interestingly enough, the asylum that propelled Bly to journalistic fame is now an apartment building just south of the new monument. “[‘The Girl Puzzle’] serves as a lighthouse, like the lighthouse under which it sits at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island,” the press release read.
“As the first woman to serve as Governor of New York State, I am proud to lead the state that was the birthplace of the fight for women’s rights,” Governor Kathy Hochul said during of an official unveiling event. “This monument, with its five faces representing the great diversity of so many women, will provide a poignant and meaningful educational destination for visitors to reflect on our shared history and remember that women’s rights are human rights.”
There are other monuments honoring iconic women who call New York home. A massive statue of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg took over City Point in downtown Brooklyn, for example, while the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in Central Park in 2020.