Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Women's History Month, March 2nd: Wisconsin Teacher, Golda Meir

Golda Meir as a young girl
 I have no particular organized outline for these posts on Women's History Month; each one is prompted by some daily encounter with the news or current events.  Meir was a logical choice, given the events taking place in Madison, Wisconsin and also in the middle east.  Meir grew up in Milwaukee, and became a teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; she was an active supporter of labor causes.

Women's History Month is celebrated world wide, an extension of International Women's Day on March 8th, going back to 1911, which then grew into a celebration of Women's History Week, and now we're up to a whole month.

Golda Meir is best known as the 4th Prime Minister of Israel, a position she held from March 17, 1969 until  June 3, 1974.   But her background was much more diverse; she was born in Kiev in 1898, then part of Russia, now the Ukraine.  She came to the United States, to Milwaukee, with her mother and siblings to join her father in 1906; they had fled Russia to avoid a Pogrom.  For those not entirely familiar with the term, becaue it has such interesting parallels to what is taking place in some of the middle east developments, where there are sunni/shia tensions, or tribal loyalties defining conflicts, I'll take the easy route, from wikipedia:
A pogrom (Russian: погром) is a form of violent riot, a mob attack, either approved or condoned by government or military authorities, directed against a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or other, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres. The term usually carries connotation of spontaneous hatred within the majority population against certain (usually ethnic) minorities, which they see as dangerous and harming the interests of majority.
Golda Meir, 1914
Milwaukee, WI
courtesy of

In Milwaukee, Golda Meir worked part time with her mother in her grocery store, and went to a grade school which is now named for her, the Golda Meir School.  She graduated valedictorian of her class, and was noted for her leadership, including organizing a fund raiser to help pay for students text books. (If Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans have their way with budget cuts, this might become a necessity again.)

Golda Meir married a sign painter in 1917, around the time she graduated from teachers college, and began to teach in the public schools in Milwaukee.  She and her husband left to move to a kibbutz in Palestine in 1921. She and her husband would have moved to the middle east sooner, but WWI intruded.  In the interim, Meir became more active in the Zionist movement, including traveling around the United States fund raising.  During this time, discovering she was pregnant shortly after her wedding she had an abortion, because ""her Zionist obligations simply did not leave room for a child."

In Palestine, Meir and her husband lived on a kibbutz, where she rose to a position of leadership, and was elected to the Israeli trade union organization Histadrut, or HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael, which in 1921 unified two earlier competing labor organizations formed to protect Jewish workers, particularly Jewish immigrant workers to Palestine.  David Ben Gurion, who was to become the first Prime Minister of Israel was elected the Secretary.  The Histadrut became one of the most key nation-building organizations in the history of Israel; it began accepting Arab members as of 1959.  Meir became the representative of a labor group to the United States from 1932 to 1934, and then returned to Palestine.

In 1938, Meir was the Jewish observer from Palestine at the Evian conference in Evian les Bains, France called by FDR to discuss the Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.  Palestine at the time was a British mandate, following WWI, and had limited Jewish immigration to the region under their control.  (Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia came into existence in the same agreement which had established British Palestine; all of them were carved out of the old Ottoman Empire, by the Treaty of Sevres in 1920.)

Meir, circa 1948
In 1948, after a war of independence from the British, Golda Meir was one of only two women of the 24 signatories to the Israeli Declaration of Independence signed on May 14th.  Meir went on to be the first Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union, and then was elected to their representative body, the Knesset in 1949.  She served as the Israeli Labour Minister, the approximate equivalent of Secretary of Labor in the United States, from 1949 to 1956.  From 1956 to 1966, Golda Meir left her position as Labor Minister to become the Foreign Minister until 1966, when she stepped down due to illness. 

Meir, with Anwar Sadat
Meir became the first  (and only) woman premier of Israel in 1969, retiring in 1974, after having been leader of Israel during the Yom Kippur war, the Munich Olympics massacre, and numerous other challenges.  She died 4 years after retiring as premier of Israel, at the age of 80, of a lymphoma.

As a public school teacher, a fierce labor union supporter, who grew up in Wisconsin, I can only speculate, based on her life, what Golda Meir's position would be on the status of events unfolding in Madison.  That position would certainly not be passive or silent, and it suggests at least to me, a further inspiration for those protesting.  I can only imagine that Meir is spinning in her grave on Mt. Herzl, at the proposal to end the existing collective bargaining of unions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1st in History - Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month - March 1st: Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams, circa 1776
portrait by Benjamin Blythe
courtesy Wikipedia
Having mentioned her husband John Adams, and the Sedition Act of 1798 in a previous post today, it seemed only fair to give consideration at the beginning of Women's History Month to his wife Abigail Adams.
Abigail Adams, later in life
portrait by Gilbert Stuart
courtesy of Wikipedia

As our first 'second lady', the wife of Adams when he was our first vice president, and second 'first lady' when Adams followed President George Washington in that honor (1797 - 1801, Abigail Adams was a powerful influence in her own right, on behalf of women.  Her own words on the subject of women in our early history, taken from letters to her husband over the years of their marriage, are more eloquent than anything I could provide on her behalf:
Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.

Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to... Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne.

Great necessities call out great virtues. (that seems a particularly timely observation - DG)

Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex.

The only chance for much intellectual improvement in the female sex, was to be found in the families of the educated class and in occasional intercourse with the learned.

I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country.  (me too - Palin, Bachmann and O'Donnell come to mind)

These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.

I am more and more convinced that Man is a dangerous creature, and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cries give, give. The great fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the prerogatives of Government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances.
 My compliments and gratitude to Jone Johnson Lewis  for her quote collection for the above.
Happy Women's History Month - I hope to do one of these each day of March in celebration.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th in History

I haven't done one of these for a while.  Seems like a good occasion to do so.

1215  The Fourth Lateran Council meets, defining the doctrine of transubstantiation, the process by which bread and wine are, by that doctrine, said to transform into the body and blood of Christ.

1493 Birth of Paracelsus, physician (d. 1541)

1620 Forty-one Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, anchored off Massachusetts, signed a compact calling for a "body politick."
1634 Following pressure from Anglican bishop John Atherton, the Irish House of Commons passes An Act for the Punishment for the Vice of Buggery.

1673 Second Battle of Khotyn in Ukraine: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forces under the command of Jan Sobieski defeat the Ottoman army. In this battle, rockets made by Kazimierz Siemienowicz are successfully used.

1675 Gottfried Leibniz demonstrates integral calculus for the first time to find the area under the graph of y = ƒ(x)

1750  The F.H.C. Society, also known as the Flat Hat Club, is formed at Raleigh Tavern, Williamsburg, Virginia. It is the first college fraternity.

1821 Birth of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian novelist (d. 1881)

1831 Former slave Nat Turner, who had led a violent insurrection, was executed in Jerusalem, Va.
1839 The Virginia Military Institute is founded in Lexington, Virginia.

1855  Death of Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (b. 1813)

1864 Sherman's March to the Sea – Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman begins burning Atlanta, Georgia to the ground in preparation for his march south.

1865 Treaty of Sinchula is signed by which Bhutan cedes the areas east of the Teesta River to the British East India Company.

1869 The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act is enacted in Australia, giving the government control of indigenous people's wages, their terms of employment, where they could live, and of their children, effectively leading to the Stolen Generations.

1885  Birth of George Smith Patton, Jr., American general (d. 1945)

1889 Washington became the 42nd state.

1911 Many cities in the Midwestern United States break their record highs and lows on the same day as a strong cold front rolls through.

1918 World War I: Germany signs an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiègne in France. The war officially ends at 11:00 (The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) and this is annually honoured with a two-minute silence. (I hope Penigma readers will join me in a two-minute silence today in that tradition.)
     Death of George Lawrence Price, Canadian soldier, last person to be killed in W.W.I. (b. 1892)
     Józef Piłsudski comes to Warsaw and assumes supreme military power in Poland. Poland regains its independence, celebrated each year on this day.

           Emperor Charles I of Austria relinquishes power, a pivotal event in the occurrences involved in WW I.

1919 President Woodrow Wilson declares Armistice Day:
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
Armistice Day changed to Veteran's Day in 1954, to honor all veterans, not only those of WW I. The idea of expanding Veterans Day originated with Alfred King, a shoe store owner in Emporia Kansas, who sought the support of his Chamber of Commerce to launch a campaign for the change.

The Centralia Massacre in Centralia, Washington results the deaths of four members of the American Legion and the lynching of a local leader of the Industrial Workers of the World.

         Lāčplēša day Latvian forces defeat the Freikorps at Riga in the Latvian War of Independence.
1921 President Warren G. Harding dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

1926 U.S. Route 66 is established.

1930 Patent number US1781541 is awarded to Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd for their invention, the Einstein refrigerator.  (Included because I am a science geek.)

1934 The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia is opened.

1940 World War II: Battle of Taranto – The Royal Navy launches the first aircraft carrier strike in history, on the Italian fleet at Taranto.
        Armistice Day Blizzard: An unexpected blizzard kills 144 in the U.S. Midwest.

1942 World War II: Nazi Germany completes its occupation of France.

1944 Dr. jur. Erich Göstl, a member of the Waffen SS, was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery, after losing his face and eyes during the Battle of Normandy.

1966 NASA launches Gemini 12

1972 The U.S. Army turned over its base at Long Binh to the South Vietnamese army, symbolizing the end of direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War.

1975 Australian constitutional crisis of 1975: Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismisses the government of Gough Whitlam, appoints Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister and announces a general election to be held in early December.

1992 The Church of England voted to ordain women as priests.

1993 A sculpture honoring women who served in the Vietnam War was dedicated at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

1998 Israel's Cabinet narrowly ratified a land-for-peace agreement with the Palestinians.

2000 Republicans went to court seeking an order to block manual recounts from continuing in Florida's presidential election.
2001 Journalists Pierre Billaud, Johanne Sutton and Volker Handloik are killed in Afghanistan during an attack on the convoy they are traveling in.

2004 New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is dedicated at the National War Memorial, Wellington.

2004 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in Paris at age 75.
2006 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II unveils the New Zealand War Memorial in London, United Kingdom, commemorating the loss of soldiers from the New Zealand Army and the British Army.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28th in History

   551 BC  Birth of Confucius, Chinese philosopher (d. 479)
    48 BC  Death of Pompey the Great, who was assassinated on the orders of King Ptolemy of Egypt after landing in Egypt.
   935      Death of Saint Wenceslas, murdered by his brother, Boleslaus I of Bohemia
 1066      William the Conqueror invades England; the Norman Conquest began.
 1106      In the Battle of Tinchebrai, Henry I of England defeats his brother, Robert Curthose.
 1238      Muslim Valencia surrenders to the besieging King James I of Aragon the Conqueror.
 1330      Birth of Nicolas Flamel, French alchemist (d. 1418) made famous with his wife and fellow alchemist Perrenelle Flamel for supposedly having succeeded in changing lead into silver and gold, and for creating the Philosopher's Stone, ingredient in 'the elixir of life' which makes those who consume it immortal.  In a sense, he is immortalized, in numerous works of fiction, including J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel.
 1542      Navigator João Rodrigues Cabrilho of Portugal arrives at what is now San Diego, California, United States.
 1667      Birth of Asano Naganori, Japanese warlord (d. 1701)
 1708      Peter the Great defeats the Swedes at the Battle of Lesnaya.
 1746      Birth of Sir William Jones, English philologist who discovered the inter-relationship of what we now understand to be Proto-Indo-European root of a large number of languages. (d. 1794)
 1779      American Revolution: Samuel Huntington is elected President of the Continental Congress, succeeding John Jay.
 1787     The newly completed United States Constitution is voted on by the U.S. Congress to be sent to the state legislatures for approval.
 1791     France becomes the first European country to emancipate its Jewish population.
 1835     Birth of Sai Baba of Shirdi (d. 1918)
 1836     Birth of Thomas Crapper, English inventor of modern plumbing, including the flush toilet. (d. 1910)
 1844     Death of Pyotr Aleksandrovich Tolstoy, Russian general and statesman (b. 1769)
 1864     The International Workingmen's Association is founded in London.
 1867     Toronto becomes the capital of Ontario.
              The United States takes control of Midway Island.
 1889     The first General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) defines the length of a meter as the distance between two lines on a standard bar of an alloy of platinum with ten percent iridium, measured at the melting point of ice.
 1891     Death of Herman Melville, American novelist (b. 1819)
 1895     Death of Louis Pasteur, French scientist (b. 1822)
 1901     Birth ofWilliam S. Paley, American radio and television executive (d. 1990)
 1909     Birth of Al Capp, American cartoonist (d. 1979)
 1910     Birth of Wenceslao Vinzons, Filipino politician and resistance leader (d. 1942)
 1925     Birth of  Seymour Cray, American computer scientist (d. 1996)
 1928    The U.K. Parliament passes the Dangerous Drugs Act outlawing cannabis.  Sir Alexander Fleming notices a bacteria-killing mould growing in his laboratory, discovering what later became known as penicillin.
 1953    Death of Edwin Hubble, American astronomer (b. 1889)
 1956    Death of William Edward Boeing, American aviation pioneer (b. 1881)
 1958    France ratifies a new Constitution of France; the French Fifth Republic is then formed upon the formal adoption of the new constitution on October 4. Guinea rejects the new constitution, voting for independence instead.  Award yourself five bonus points if you can list the other French Republics, and when they took place.
 1961    A military coup in Damascus effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria.
             Birth of Quentin Kawananakoa, pretender to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii
 1971   The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 banning the medicinal use of cannabis.
 1973   The ITT Building in New York City is bombed in protest at ITT's alleged involvement in the September 11 1973 coup d'état in Chile.
 1987   The beginning of the Palestinian civil disobedience uprising, "The First Intifada" against the Israeli occupation.
 2000   Al-Aqsa Intifada: Ariel Sharon visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
 2007   First celebration of International  World Rabies Day.
 2008   SpaceX launches the first ever private spacecraft, the Falcon 1 into orbit.
 2009   The military junta leading Guinea, headed by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, sexually assaulted, killed and wounded protesters during a protest rally in a stadium called Stade du 28 Septembre. See this day, 1958.