Tess Stanley developed an exceptional historical research paper for this year’s National History Day contest. The Huntington High School junior captured first place in the local competition and was expected to vie for Long Island and state honors before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 initiative.
Ms. Stanley is a dynamic young woman with an impressive skill set who excels in every academic area. One of the top students in Huntington’s Class of 2021, judges found the teenager’s National History Day project to be absolutely spectacular.
Huntington High School junior Tess Stanley.
“Initially, I had planned to create a traditional National History Day project by finding a topic that follows the theme,” Ms. Stanley said. “However, when I discovered Elizabeth Cochrane, known by her pen name, Nellie Bly, I couldn’t follow through with my original plan as Nellie Bly simultaneously broke barriers by becoming a well-known female stunt journalist, but on the other hand, was an unsuccessful muckraker who wrote for sensationalist newspapers.”
The Huntington scholar gave plenty of thought to her project. “The process of deciding to write ‘against’ the 2019/20 theme of ‘Breaking Barriers’ took an extensive amount of research and encouragement from Mr. [Kenneth] Donovan, my Advanced Placement United States History teacher,” Ms. Stanley said.
It isn’t very easy at all to develop an award winning historical research paper while simultaneously nearly acing every single class on your schedule, but that is just what Ms. Stanley managed to do.
“My paper follows Elizabeth Cochrane, or Nellie By, who, under the direction of her editor at the New York World [newspaper], feigned insanity in order to be committed to the Blackwell’s Island Women’s Lunatic Asylum in 1887,” Ms. Stanley said. “After successfully being committed, she was instructed to write an exposé of the conditions and management of the asylum within 10 days. Once she was released and her book ‘Ten Days in a Madhouse” was published, she grew in popularity as a stunt journalist.”
Ms. Bly’s book exposed horrific unacceptable conditions along with overcrowding, favoritism and drug dealing. She died of pneumonia at St. Mark’s Hospital in New York City in 1922 at 57. She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Blackwell’s Island was renamed in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1973. It has been redeveloped and now features luxury housing units and boasts an almost non-existent crime rate.
“Today, many people crown her as a woman who pioneered stunt journalism and credit her as instrumental in significantly improving the treatment of the mentally ill during the 1800s,” Ms. Stanley said. “Unfortunately, her research and exposé did not have a significant impact on the treatment of the insane during the Victorian Era, due to existing public awareness of Blackwell’s conditions, the ineffectiveness of her exposé in reforming the treatment of the insane and her sensationalist motives as a journalist working for the New York World.”