Tag Archive: Nell Darby


Sensational cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Kim Todd pulls no punches in her new book Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters.”  Opening with an expose on the illicit abortion trade in 1880s Chicago, Todd sets the stage for her analysis of more than a century of “writing while female.”  Todd’s unflinching portrayal of pioneering female journalists offers a new—and far more complete—view of the history of American journalism.  From the moment when Elizabeth Cochrane, aka “Nellie Bly,” burst on the scene with her undercover profile of New York’s public mental hospital, through the Yellow Journalism era of the late 1890s and well into the twentieth century, Todd tracks the evolution of journalism as a profession, and with it the rise and fall of women reporters.  The social issues that sparked the enormous popularity of stories written by women, and what caused “respectable” publications to pull away from their superstar reporters–and historians to whitewash their contributions–form the meat of Todd’s extensively-researched volume.

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Sister Sleuths cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Some history books rehash familiar territory, and some tread entirely new, unexplored ground.  Nell Darby’s Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain is the latter.  Tapping into a rich but hidden vein of criminology history, Darby uncovers the true stories of professional female investigators from the Victorian age through the early 20th century.

More scholarly text than popular nonfiction, Darby’s work mines census data, newspaper reporting and advertising, and court records to follow the path of private detection as a career appealing to British women from the 1860s to the 1930s.  In short, bite-sized chapters divided by theme and chronology, Sister Sleuths tracks the evolution of the private investigation industry.  Working side-by-side with their male counterparts, female detectives brought particular skills (real or perceived) to the job.
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