A Nellie Bly Memorial Is Being Planned for New York City’s Roosevelt Island

The infamous asylum on Blackwell's Island that Nellie Bly infiltrated in the late 1880s.
The infamous asylum on Blackwell's Island that Nellie Bly infiltrated in the late 1880s.
New York Public Library, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Nellie Bly, the 19th-century journalist renowned for her six-part exposé on Blackwell’s Island’s asylum in New York City—which she infiltrated by feigning insanity—will soon be honored with a memorial on the island itself, now called Roosevelt Island.

Her 1887 investigation, Smithsonian.com reports, uncovered cruel conditions for the female "lunatic" patients, like freezing baths, violence, and solitary confinement in rooms overrun with vermin. Its publication resulted in a series of improvements including increased funding, translator assistance for immigrants, termination of abusive staff, and more. It also facilitated a national discussion about the stigma of mental illness, especially for women.

All we know about the monument so far is that it’ll be some kind of statue—maybe a traditional sculpture, something more modern or even digital—and construction will take place between March and May of next year with a budget of about $500,000. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) announced an open call for artists to submit their designs, and by August 2, it will choose five finalists who will then create conceptual proposals for the memorial.

The monument’s precise location is still up in the air, too. It could be around the Octagon, the only remaining portion of the asylum building that now forms the entrance to a luxury apartment complex on the northern half of the island, or in Lighthouse Park, a 3.78-acre space at the island’s northern tip.

Portrait of Nellie Bly
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Until the mid-20th century, Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, was a rather undesirable place to visit. Along with the women’s asylum, it housed a prison, a charity hospital, a smallpox hospital, and a workhouse, The New York Times reports.

The city changed the name of the island (originally called Blackwell’s after the family who farmed there for generations) to Welfare Island in 1921. In 1935, it relocated the prison to Rikers Island (where it remains today). And in 1971, the city established a middle-income residential community on the island, renaming it Roosevelt Island, after Franklin Roosevelt.

Though Bly’s work in the island’s asylum may be her most famous, it was far from her only contribution to the worlds of journalism and industry. She also sailed around the world in 72 days, investigated baby trafficking, and ran her late husband’s manufacturing company. You can read more about her here.

“She’s one of our local heroes,” RIOC president Susan Rosenthal told The City about the choice to honor Bly. “The combination of who she was, the importance of investigative journalism and the fact that it happened here just made it perfect for the island.”

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Tax Day for Americans Will Be Pushed Back to July 15

Enterline Design Services LLC
Enterline Design Services LLC

On Friday morning, less than a month before the American tax filing deadline of April 15, treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin announced via Twitter that Tax Day will be pushed back by three months—to July 15, 2020—in order to allow individuals and businesses dealing with the physical, financial, and logistical repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic some extra time to get their financial matters in order.

While the date change applies to all American individuals, businesses, and organizations—and no interest or penalties will accrue during this time—Mnuchin, in a second tweet, did suggest that anyone who has completed their taxes submit them now "to get your money."

No further details were given, though we're sure a more detailed statement will be coming as, at the time of publication, even the IRS's site still noted April 15 as the deadline.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln created the first income tax as a way to cover Civil War expenses. Calculating what you owed was a lot easier back then: It was a 3 percent flat tax on all incomes above $800. But it wasn't until 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment, that Congress formalized a nationwide income tax. Originally, Tax Day was March 1; a few years later, it was pushed back to March 15.

In 1955, revisions to the tax code moved the date back again to April 15, though there have been some exceptions. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, Americans got a few extra days to file because Tax Day cannot fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. But why did it move from March 1 in the first place? The IRS claims it needed more time to process returns, but tax experts believe that an increase in refunds for the middle class meant the agency wanted to hold onto its money longer and collect interest.

We're Hiring a Part-Time Editorial Assistant

zakokor/iStock via Getty Images
zakokor/iStock via Getty Images

Mental Floss is hiring a part-time editorial assistant for our New York City office (though part of your hours can be worked remotely). We’re looking for a rabidly curious individual who is interested in contributing to various aspects of MentalFloss.com.

You can write about almost anything, and you will: Why Paraguay loves Rutherford B. Hayes. What people did for fun in the 16th century. Why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were so obsessed with pizza. Chaucer. Mini-golf. Drones. Why Syrian golden hamsters spend so much time at the liquor store.

In addition to writing, researching, photo sourcing, web production, and pitching story ideas, you’ll have the opportunity to assist our social media editor with conceptualizing and executing ideas for our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels and sharing the new content we post daily. You’ll also have the chance to work with our video team to write and produce our slate of YouTube series; pitch in on our new podcast; and be a part of our monthly team brainstorms. This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to learn the digital publishing industry from the ground up, to be able to contribute to some fun (and sometimes bizarre) projects, and to earn some bylines on our Webby Award-winning website.

You’ll be working approximately 15-20 hours per week (and can spend some of that time working remotely, though onsite hours will be required). The position starts ASAP and pays $15/hour. Though it’s scheduled to be a two- to three-month position, the opportunity to continue on after that may be possible.

Ideal candidates will have:
- At least one year of writing and/or editing experience (classes, school-based projects, and/or personal blogs or websites count)
- A natural curiosity and the ability to generate tons of story ideas and execute timely stories on tight deadlines
- Strong attention to detail and multitasking skills
- Energetic, positive written voice, and the ability to translate complicated concepts into accessible writing
- Strong research skills
- Ability to work and collaborate with a team

Click here for more information, and to submit your application.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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