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19th Amendment: A Timeline of the Fight for All Women's Right to Vote

August 13, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

From Seneca Falls to the civil rights movement, see what events led to the ratification of the 19th amendment and later acts supporting Black and Native American women’s right to vote.

By the time the final battle over ratification of the 19th Amendment went down in Nashville, Tennessee in the summer of 1920, 72 years had passed since the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. More than 20 nations around the world had granted women the right to vote, along with 15 states, more than half of them in the West. Suffragists had marched en masse, been arrested for illegally voting and picketing outside the White House, gone on hunger strikes and endured brutal beatings in prison—all in the name of the American woman’s right to vote.

WATCH: Susan B. Anthony: Rebel for the Cause on HISTORY Vault

1848 – Seneca Falls

Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other participants at the inaugural women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls adopt the Declaration of Sentiments, which calls for equality for women and includes a resolution that women should seek the right to vote. The suffrage resolution passes by a narrow margin, helped along by the support of the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, an early ally of women’s rights activists.

The Seneca Falls Convention (TV-PG; 4:18)

READ MORE: The Women’s Suffrage Movement Began with a Tea Party

1869 – Wyoming Passes Women’s Suffrage Law

Tensions erupt within the women’s rights movement over the recently ratified 14th Amendment and the proposed 15th Amendment, which would give the vote to Black men, but not women. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association to focus on fighting for a women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution, while Lucy Stone and other more conservative suffragists favor lobbying for voting rights on a state-by-state basis.

Despite the longtime association between the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, Stanton and Anthony’s refusal to support ratification of the 15th Amendment leads to a public break with Douglass, and alienates many Black suffragists.

READ MORE: How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women

In December, the legislature of Wyoming territory passes the nation’s first women’s suffrage law. Admitted to the Union in 1890, Wyoming will become the first state to grant women the right to vote.

The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to …read more


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How Political Conventions Began—And Changed

August 13, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

In the 19th century there were no primaries—candidates were selected during each party’s convention.

that it was actually an attempt to replace Vice President John C. Calhoun with Martin Van Buren on the ticket. (Jackson succeeded and won reelection.)

Since then, every major party, with the exception of the Whigs in 1836, has held a national convention to nominate its presidential candidate. Still, nominating conventions in the 19th century were very different from the versions Americans watch on TV today. Back then, the winning candidate didn’t give an acceptance speech or even necessarily attend the convention—an unofficial practice that ended with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.

“Throughout most of the 19th century, campaigning was kind of considered uncouth,” says Stan M. Haynes, a lawyer in Baltimore and author of two books on the history of U.S. nominating conventions.

“Candidates would write letters and do things behind the scenes, but to do anything publicly to show that you were running for president was kind of considered to be tacky,” he continues. “The party should come to you, you should not come to the party.”

One of the other big differences between modern conventions and 19th-century ones is that there were no presidential primary elections. The convention was when candidates were selected. As with the caucus before it, party members eventually came to see this as an undemocratic system in need of reform.

A Rough Start for Presidential Primaries

A meeting of the Progressive Party in Chicago supporting the candidate Theodore Roosevelt for the 1912 election.

Early 20th-century politicians advocated for primaries by saying they’d make the nominating process more democratic, even if that wasn’t always politicians’ main reason for supporting them. In 1912, former president Theodore Roosevelt—who’d previously opposed primaries—publicly supported them when he realized it might be the only way to wrest the Republican Party nomination from the sitting president (and his former VP) William Howard Taft.

Only 13 of the 48 states held Republican primaries in the 1912 election, so although Roosevelt won most of the races, he didn’t secure enough delegates to win the nomination. He responded by breaking from the Republicans and starting the Progressive Party or “Bull Moose Party” so he could run for president on its ticket. The new party’s nominating process, however, was deeply undemocratic: the Progressive convention refused to seat Black delegates, including those …read more


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How a WWII Disaster—and Cover-up—Led to a Cancer Treatment Breakthrough

August 12, 2020 in History

By Jennet Conant

The German attack at Bari, dubbed ‘little Pearl Harbor,’ unknowingly hit an Allied ship full of poisonous mustard gas bombs.

On the night of December 2, 1943, the Germans bombed a key Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking 17 ships and killing more than 1,000 American and British servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise

By dawn, the patients had developed red, inflamed skin and blisters on their bodies “the size of balloons.” Within 24 hours, the wards were full of men with eyes swollen shut. The doctors suspected some form of chemical irritant, but the patients did not present typical symptoms or respond to standard treatments. The staff’s unease only deepened when notification came from headquarters that the hundreds of burn patients with unusual symptomology would be classified “Dermatitis N.Y.D.“—not yet diagnosed.

Then without warning, patients in relatively good condition began dying. These sudden, mysterious deaths left the doctors baffled and at a loss as to how to proceed. Rumors spread that the Germans had used an unknown poison gas. With the daily death toll rising, British officials in Bari placed a “red light” call alerting Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) in Algiers to the medical crisis. Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Francis Alexander, a young chemical warfare specialist attached to Eisenhower’s staff, was dispatched immediately to the scene of the disaster.

The Investigator’s Findings Were Censored

Despite the British port authorities’ denials, Alexander quickly diagnosed mustard gas exposure. Convinced that preoccupation with military security had compounded the tragedy, he doggedly pursued his own investigation to identify the source of the chemical agent and determine how it had poisoned so many men.

After carefully studying the medical charts, he plotted the destroyed cargo ships’ positions relative to the gas victims and succeeded in pinpointing the John Harvey as the epicenter of the chemical explosion. When divers pulled up fragments of fractured gas shells, the casings were identified as being from 100-pound American mustard bombs.

On December 11, 1943, Alexander informed headquarters of his initial findings. Not only was the gas from the Allies’ own supply, but the victims labeled “Dermatitis N.Y.D.” had suffered prolonged exposure as a result of being immersed in a toxic solution of mustard and oil floating on the surface of the harbor.

The response Alexander received was shocking. While Eisenhower accepted his diagnosis, Churchill refused to acknowledge the presence of mustard gas in Bari. With the …read more


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How Did World War II End?

August 11, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

The war lasted six years and a day. These key moments marked the beginning of Allied victory over the Axis powers.

World War II ended six years and one day after Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, sparked the 20th century’s second global conflict. By the time it concluded on the deck of an American warship on September 2, 1945, World War II had claimed the lives of an estimated 60-80 million people, approximately 3 percent of the world’s population. The vast majority of those who died in history’s deadliest war were civilians, including 6 million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Germany employed its “blitzkrieg” (“lightning war”) strategy to sweep across the Netherlands, Belgium and France in the war’s opening months and force more than 300,000 British and other Allied troops to evacuate continental Europe from Dunkirk. In June 1941, German dictator Adolf Hitler broke his nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union and launched Operation Barbarossa, which brought Nazi troops to the gates of Moscow.

By the time the United States entered World War II following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, German forces occupied much of Europe from the Black Sea to the English Channel. The Allies, however, turned the tide of the conflict, and the following major events brought World War II to an end.

WATCH: ‘Hiroshima: 75 Years Later‘ on HISTORY Vault

1. Germany Repelled on Two Fronts

The Lasting Impact of War (TV-PG; 2:01)

WATCH: The Lasting Impact of War

After storming across Europe in the first three years of the war, overextended Axis forces were put on the defensive after the Soviet Red Army rebuffed them in the brutal Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 to February 1943. The fierce battle for the city named after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin resulted in nearly two million casualties, including the deaths of tens of thousands of Stalingrad residents.

As Soviet troops began to advance on the Eastern Front, the Western Allies invaded Sicily and southern Italy, causing the fall of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s government in July 1943. The Allies then opened a Western Front with the amphibious D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. After gaining a foothold in northern France, Allied troops liberated Paris on August 25 followed by Brussels …read more


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How Teddy Roosevelt's Belief in a Racial Hierarchy Shaped His Policies

August 11, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

His conviction that white men of European descent were innately superior informed his actions on matters from national parks to foreign policy.

. But Roosevelt didn’t come to those ideas himself. According to Cullinane, his racial ideology drew on his readings of leading evolutionary theorists such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin.

Roosevelt “admired individual achievement above all things,” wrote biographer Edmund Morris—which is why he became the first president to invite an African American to dine at the White House when he broke bread with Tuskegee Institution founder Booker T. Washington just weeks after his inauguration. “The only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each Black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have,” Roosevelt wrote of his meeting.

Roosevelt also defended Minnie Cox, the country’s first African American female postmaster, after she was driven out of Indianola, Mississippi, because of the color of her skin. He appointed Black Americans to prominent positions, such as his nomination of Dr. William Crum as customs collector in Charleston, South Carolina, which drew considerable political opposition and this presidential response: “I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope—the door of opportunity—is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color.”

READ MORE: How Woodrow Wilson Tried to Reverse Black American Progress

He Took a Dimmer View of Racial Groups as a Whole

A painting depicting Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders storming San Juan Heights in a key battle of the Spanish-American War on July 1, 1898 near Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

In spite of those words, though, Roosevelt hardly saw all Black Americans as equals. “As a race and in the mass they are altogether inferior to the whites,” he confided to a friend in a 1906 letter. Ten years later, he told Senator Henry Cabot Lodge that “the great majority of Negroes in the South are wholly unfit for the suffrage” and that giving them voting rights could “reduce parts of the South to the level of Haiti.”

Roosevelt also believed that Black men made poor soldiers. He denigrated the efforts of the buffalo soldiers who fought alongside his men at San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American …read more


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5 Hard-Earned Lessons from Pandemics of the Past

August 10, 2020 in History

By Jessica Pearce Rotondi

How do populations survive a pandemic? History offers some strategies.

Humankind is resilient. While global pandemics like the ” is derived from the Italian quarantino, meaning “40-day period.”

READ MORE: Social Distancing and Quarantine Were Used to Fight the Black Death

2. Socially Distant Food and Drink Pickup

COVID-19 was not the first pandemic to strike Italy. During the Italian Plague (1629-1631), the wealthy citizens of Tuscany devised an ingenious way to sell off the contents of their wine cellars without entering the presumably infected streets: Wine windows, or buchette del vino.

These narrow windows were cut into grand homes to allow wine sellers to pass their wares to waiting customers, much like the to-go cocktail windows that popped up cities like New York during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeenth-century wine sellers even used vinegar as a disinfectant when accepting payment. There are over 150 wine windows in the city of Florence, and 400 years after the plague, they were revived amid COVID-19 to serve customers everything from wine and coffee to gelato.

3. Mask-Wearing

Boys wear bags of camphor around their necks around the time of the 1918-19 Spanish flu—an “old-wives’ method of flue-prevention,” according to a December 1946 issue of Life magazine.

View the 9 images of this gallery on the original article

Doctors treating patients during the Black Death wore plague masks with long, bird-like beaks. They had the right idea—the long beaks created social distance between patient and doctor and at least partially covered their mouth and nose—but the wrong science. Doctors at the time believed in Miasma theory, which held that diseases spread through bad smells in the air. The beaks were often packed with strongly scented herbs believed to ward off illness.

During the 1918 influenza pandemic, masks became the go-to means of stopping the spread of infection to the public. Masks became mandatory in San Francisco in September of 1918, and those who didn’t comply faced fines, imprisonment and the threat of having their names printed in newspapers as “mask slackers.”

But newspapers weren’t just for shaming; they also printed instructions on how to make masks at home. People even got creative with masks, with the Seattle Daily Times running an article entitled “Influenza Veils Set New Fashion” in October of 1918.

READ MORE: ‘Mask Slackers’: The 1918 Campaigns to Shame People Into Following New Rules

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How Ben Franklin Established the US Post Office

August 10, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Franklin traveled widely to select postal routes, find the best clerks and create a system of communication for horse-riders who carried the mail.

During the . That year he was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia, after British authorities removed his predecessor for failing to submit financial reports. As Devin Leonard notes in his book Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service, being a local postmaster didn’t pay mucha 10 percent commission on customers’ postage—but it came with a big fringe benefit. Franklin had franking privileges, which enabled him to mail his newspaper to readers at no cost. That helped Franklin build a big circulation and turn the Pennsylvania Gazette into one of the colonies’ most successful publications.

In a similar way that modern politicians and celebrities rely on Twitter, Franklin used the mail for self-promotion. As Leonard notes, Franklin’s ability to send his own letters without paying postage—he instead simply inscribed them with “Free.B.Franklin”—enabled him to correspond with other intellectuals in Europe. That helped to publicize Franklin’s achievements, “thereby helping to make Franklin into one of the world’s most admired Americans,” as Leonard writes. Stanford University historian Caroline Winterer, who has studied the 20,000 letters left behind by Franklin, describes him as “a man with a dynamic social network” comparable to our interconnected world today.

READ MORE: How Presidents Have Communicated With the Public—From Telegraph to Twitter

Britain Appoints Franklin as Postmaster of 13 Colonies

Franklin, a meticulous record-keeper, was so skillful at running postal operations in Philadelphia that in 1753, the British Crown appointed him as joint postmaster for all 13 colonies. Though he nominally shared authority with William Hunter, a Virginia-based printer, Hunter pretty much let Franklin call the shots, according to Leonard’s book. Franklin held that post for more than two decades, during which he orchestrated huge improvements in mail service, including establishing a regular schedule that allowed mail to move efficiently along post roads up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Franklin “traveled widely to inspect postal routes, find the most reliable postal clerks to serve as his associates in the different towns and cities, and create a system of communication that would work well for riders of the post,” Mulford explains.

“Franklin had foresight. He was a good systems analyst,” Mulford says. “He was agreeable to work with, when others were agreeable. And he was an excellent trouble-shooter, …read more


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Michael Brown is killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri

August 6, 2020 in History

By Editors

On August 9, 2014, police officer Darren Wilson shoots and kills Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in the street of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests and riots ensue in Ferguson and soon spread across the country.

There are many different accounts of the incident, including the testimonies of Wilson and of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time. Many details differ, but most accounts agree that Wilson saw Brown and Johnson walking in the street, demanded they get on the sidewalk, then stopped his police SUV in front of them in order to confront them. He and Brown had an altercation through the open window of the car, during which Wilson fired twice. Brown and Johnson tried to leave, Wilson exited his car to pursue them, and at some point Brown turned back around to face Wilson, who then fired 12 shots, six of which hit Brown. Wilson claimed he fired in self-defense as Brown charged him, which Johnson denied. Many have claimed that Wilson warned Brown he would open fire, and that Brown responded with “Don’t shoot!” before he was killed.

The community immediately reacted with rage at the news of 18-year-old Brown’s death. The shooting ignited long-simmering tensions between the majority-Black population of Ferguson and the local police, who were mostly white. Though public opinion was sharply divided, the protests and riots and the response by Ferguson’s heavily militarized police demonstrated the extent to which the relationship between racial minorities in America and the police had frayed.

Brown’s name, the phrase “Hands up, don’t shoot” and the very mention of Ferguson quickly entered the lexicon of the growing Black Lives Matter movement.

…read more


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How Communists Became a Scapegoat for the Red Summer 'Race Riots' of 1919

August 6, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

A conspiracy theory emerged during the Red Scare, blaming “the Bolsheviki” for protests and violence.

On July 27, 1919, a white man hurled rocks at 17-year-old Eugene Williams, a Black boy who’d drifted into an unofficially “white” section of a Chicago beach. Williams was floating on a raft and the pelting caused him to slip off and drown. When police refused to make an arrest, outrage led to protests and a week of rioting as white Chicagoans responded in violence.

in order to spread anti-American messages, and he demanded the U.S. government prosecute the magazine under the 1918 Sedition Act.

Mark Ellis, a senior lecturer in history at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow who has written about the Red Summer, says part of what was going on was that people like Byrnes thought Black Americans “couldn’t be producing such articulate, well-produced, slick journalism as you would see in The Crisis magazine and The Messenger magazine.”

“I think deeply racist officials, who didn’t seem to believe that Black people are capable of doing this sort of thing and coming up with these ideas and these arguments on their own, simply assumed that they were being put up to it.”

There was never any proof that communists or other supposed political radicals were influencing Black publications or convincing Black Americans to riot, but the theory didn’t need proof to thrive. The conspiracy theory was similar to a previous one involving a WWI German spy scare. When the United States entered the war in 1917, many white Americans saw Black activists’ and soldiers’ campaigns for equal rights as evidence of German subversion.

“The idea of ‘pro-Germanism among the Negroes’—which is how military intelligence headed its reports—really spreads [during the war],” Ellis says. “There’s all sorts of briefings given to newspapers like The New York Times about German infiltration and various sorts of plots without any facts to back it up. I think a lot of people simply believed that it was just a straightforward fact that Germans were trying to subvert the loyalty of Black Americans, and were being quite successful.”

Paranoia about Black people resisting white rule goes back even further, to when white southerners feared slave revolts, says Cameron McWhirter, author of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America.

“I think there was always a concern in American …read more


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At Height of the 1918 Pandemic, Schools in NYC and Chicago Stayed Open. Here's Why

August 5, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Amid fierce controversy, public health officials in both cities decided children would be better off in school.

In the fall of 1918, as the deadly , the commissioner blamed his son’s case of influenza on his not being in school, arguing that “children are better off in school, under supervision, than playing about in the streets.”

READ MORE: Why the Second Wave of the Spanish Flu Was So Deadly

Chicago (and New Haven) Keep Schools Open Too

Like Copeland, Chicago’s health commissioner, John Dill Robertson, made the controversial decision to keep schools open during the worst of the 1918-19 flu pandemic. The city already had a strong medical inspection program in schools by that time, and Robertson and other health officials believed that children would be better off in school than at home, or on the streets, with relatively limited supervision

Despite this belief, many parents in Chicago opted to keep their children home anyway: Stern and her co-authors reported that absentee rates went from 30 percent in early to mid-October 1918 to nearly 50 percent late that month. Robertson later suggested parents were keeping children home because of what he called “fluphobia.”

In addition to New York and Chicago, officials in New Haven, Connecticut also kept schools open during the pandemic, and saw similarly high rates of absenteeism—among teachers as well as students. In all three cities, the role of medical inspections and school nurses proved crucial in enabling schools to stay open, and proved to many the value of the reforms instituted in previous decades.

Compared to other major cities in the Northeast, like Boston and Philadelphia, New York weathered the influenza pandemic reasonably well, and many credited Copeland with limiting the damage and keeping people (relatively) calm.

In 1922, Copeland ran successfully for the U.S. Senate; a young Franklin D. Roosevelt served as the honorary chairman of his campaign. Copeland would serve three terms as a senator until his death in 1938, and gained enduring fame for his successful efforts to install air conditioning in the Senate Chamber.

See all pandemic coverage here

…read more