Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, was an American investigative journalist widely known for faking insanity in order to be admitted to an asylum on Blackwell Island (today's Roosevelt Island.) Once inside, she reported on the inhumane conditions that women were being held in while being treated. Although she passed of pneumonia at the age of 57 in 1922, Bly's connection to the area has now been forever immortalized 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.
Consisting of five bronze faces—one of 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 engravings tell the stories of the women and praise their acts of courage and strength.
Furthermore, in the middle of the structure, visitors will notice three silver globes, each one meant to honor a specific moment in Bly's career. Those wishing to embark on an audio tour of the destination will be able to do so as well.
"Visitors to The Girl Puzzle will notice that some faces seem to be in pieces, while others appear to have had cracks repaired," reads an official press release about the work, which was designed by Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art to shed light on women that have gone through hardships that have rendered them stronger. "This represents the prevalence of women being broken by the world around them yet, having the strength to repair 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 beacon, like the lighthouse it sits beneath at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island," reads the press release.
"As the first woman to ever serve as Governor of the State of New York, I'm proud to lead the state that was the birthplace of the fight for women's rights," said Governor Kathy Hochul during an official unveiling event. "This monument, with its five faces representing the broad diversity of so many women, will provide a poignant educational and meaningful 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 that call New York home. A massive statue of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken 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.