The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has unveiled a new outdoor monument honoring renowned journalist Nellie Bly. Located on the island’s northern tip, “The Girl Puzzle” consists of five bronze faces sculpted in the image of Bly and anonymous female faces representing Asian American, Black, young, older, and queer women.
The monument was designed by Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art and is named after “The Girl Puzzle,” Bly’s first published work. Some of the faces are in pieces, while others appear to be cracked or repaired, which is the artist’s attempt to convey the strength of women against adversity. Engraved behind each face are words written by Bly representing the spirit and complexity of women and their stories.
“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 New York governor Kathy Hochul. “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.”
In 1887, a 23-year-old Bly acted her way into being committed to the Blackwell’s Island insane asylum. Her goal was to report on the conditions of the asylum, which were long-rumored to be inhumane. Her subsequent book, “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” was published in 1887 and is considered the first piece of investigative journalism. The account had a ripple effect on the standard of care provided to women and all people struggling with mental illness.
Today, the former asylum houses “The Octagon,” a rental property.
“We are proud to be leading the charge in support of statues featuring women, having commissioned such an important work of art representing women and equality,” said president and CEO of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation Shelton J. Haynes. “This, coupled with our landmarked Blackwell House and iconic Tramway makes Roosevelt Island an exceptional destination where history, education, and current events intertwine.”