Nellie Bly took an undercover journalist assignment to pretend to be insane to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at mental asylums. After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, she checked into a working-class boarding-house where she feigned insanity so well that everyone was convinced. She was then examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane, too.
Committed to an asylum, Bly experienced its dire conditions firsthand: horrible spoiled food; the patients mistreated and abused; unclean and unsanitary conditions. Furthermore, speaking with her fellow patients, Bly was convinced that some were as sane as she was. After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum with her editor's help and she published her experience in book form as "Ten Days in a Mad-House." It caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. More importantly, thanks to this book, living conditions for the insane were improved and funds for their care were increased.