Nellie Bly was a journalist, born Elizabeth Cochrane in 1864. Bly was her pen name. She was a ground-breaking reporter and a pioneer in her field, not only for female journalists, but for investigative journalism. She covered many stories relative to her time, including her personal trip round the world which bested the fictional Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. You can read about her work in more detail here.
One of her writings relates specifically to psychology. In 1887, Bly went to her editor with a strange request. She wanted to be admitted to an asylum. This was no small task. In order for this investigation to be a success, Bly would need to be so believable that a doctor would declare her insane and admit her to the institution.
Not only was she successful, but her report was in such high demand that they published it in book form. In addition, a grand jury launched an investigation into the conditions of the asylum, which resulted in an $850,000 increase in funds to care for the mentally ill.
You can read Nellie Bly’s complete account of her time in the asylum here, along with a couple of other articles.