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The Shocking Infanticide Trial That Exposed Sexual Harassment in 1868

January 19, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, founders of The National Woman Suffrage Association, 1881. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

When Susan B. Anthony took the stage at New York’s Cooper Union on the night of December 1, 1868, the activist—already famous for helping organize the first groups of American women’s rights agitators—could spot some of the suffrage movement’s leading lights in the audience. There was Horace Greeley, the influential abolitionist who had taken up the suffrage cause. There was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony’s friend and partner in agitating for votes for women. And there were scores of other influential women who worked and marched and demanded the vote.

But Anthony wasn’t there to fight for the ballot—she was there to demand the release of a convicted murderer from prison. As she took the stage, she told the audience about the case of Hester Vaughn, a woman tried and convicted of murdering her own baby. But Vaughn wasn’t a cold-blooded murderer, Anthony insisted, she was yet another victim of a system that denied women their basic human rights.

At the time, the story of a poor, unmarried domestic servant was an unlikely cause célèbre. But Vaughn became the centerpiece of a shocking infanticide trial that exposed sexual harassment, gender inequality and the limited legal rights of women—issues that attracted the sympathy of the leaders of the growing women’s rights movement.

It all started in 1868, when a dead baby was discovered in the apartment of Hester Vaughn, an English immigrant working as a domestic servant in Philadelphia. Vaughn had come to the United States to meet her fiancé, a man who was in fact married to another woman and abandoned Vaughn after she arrived in America.

Five years later, the unmarried Vaughn became pregnant by a man she refused to publicly identify. At the time, single mothers were doomed to life as social outcasts, and Vaughn gave birth to the baby alone and in secret in her apartment. But the infant soon died, igniting a sensational trial in which she was accused of murder.

In court, Vaughn testified that she had been seduced by her employer and then fired from her job for falling pregnant. Vaughn claimed that soon after giving birth she had fallen on the child, startled when her landlady entered …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How I Came to Protest in Front of the White House I Had Worked In

January 19, 2018 in History

By Alyssa Mastromonaco

National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland addressing a demonstration on the Mall in Washington. D.C. in 1997. (Credit: Karin Cooper/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

The first time I heard the word feminist was in 1988, when I was in 6th grade. I was a good student with the absolute best, best friend. She was a feminist, and had decided so at age 12. We would talk about it, and I agreed with everything she said. But for some reason, the label felt separate from me; my friend was the feminist one, and I was an able and funny sidekick. I have no idea why I saw it that way. I’m from a very small town, and feminism seemed exotic. Something people talked about on TV.

But then I saw something on TV that changed my perspective. While I was growing up, it was an unspoken rule in our house that the news was on in my house from 5:00-7:00 PM, and I’d often watch at home alone while my mom dropped my sister at ballet class. One day, a few years later, I tuned in to see a woman named Patricia Ireland talking about women’s rights. I don’t remember anyone before her captivating me the way she did. She seemed so unafraid. As the President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) she told The New York Times in 1992, “I want it all. I want to do everything. I don’t see why I can’t have my cake and eat it too.”

National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland addressing a demonstration on the Mall in Washington. D.C. in 1997. (Credit: Karin Cooper/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Well, I thought at first: What would she have to be afraid of? And then I listened to what she was actually saying. Slowly, I began to realize that, beyond the boundaries of this small town—and probably much more within the boundaries than I realized at the time—there was a lot to be afraid of. She spoke with strength and conviction about things that seemed so much like common sense, that initially I didn’t believe they needed saying at all. But they did.

And they still do.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March, the worldwide protest that took place on January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The idea began as a couple of Facebook events posted in the hours after the shock of …read more

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When Popes Become Penitents: The History of Papal Apologies

January 18, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Galileo before the Holy Office in the Vatican. The astronomer was condemned by the Tribunal of the Inquisition for having defended the theories of Copernicus. (Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

Papal apologies for the Catholic church’s behavior are a relatively recent phenomenon. Pope John Paul II, who held the title between 1979 and 2005, was the first to issue them. His successor, Benedict XVI, timidly followed that precedent; but it is Pope Francis who has turned the symbolic apology into something of a masterstroke, helping to shift the church’s atonement from a focus on historical wrongs to accepting moral responsibility for more current events.

In January 2017, Pope Francis met with Chilean survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to apologize to them personally. It was a strikingly intimate gesture that demonstrates how the concept of papal apologies has evolved. Here’s a look at some of the most important apologies the church has made.

Galileo

Galileo before the Holy Office in the Vatican. The astronomer was condemned by the Tribunal of the Inquisition for having defended the theories of Copernicus. (Credit: Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

John Paul’s first papal apology in 1992 was for the church’s treatment of Galileo. In the 17th century, the church had branded the astronomer a heretic for (correctly) asserting that the sun was the center of our solar system. Because this contradicted the church’s position that Earth was the center, the church forced Galileo to choose between recanting his position or burning at the stake. He decided to recant, and spent the last several years of his life on house arrest.

This first apology was one of over 100 that John Paul issued during his time as pope, most of which concerned the church’s historical misdeeds. Yet not everyone was happy about this new turn in the papacy.

“There were some misgivings because many thought that would weaken the public standing of the Catholic church,” says Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. “Some bishops or some cardinals evidently grew tired of this pope who thought that it was good for the church to apologize.”

Slavery, Colonialism & the Holocaust


On March 26, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem asking for Christian forgiveness. (Credit: Jerome Delay/AP Photo)

In 1993, John Paul continued to address the church’s behavior in past centuries by issuing an apology for the church’s role in the African slave trade. Similarly to Francis’ 2015 apology <a target=_blank …read more

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5 Presidents Who Hid Their Health Issues

January 18, 2018 in History

By Ryan Mattimore

President John F. Kennedy on crutches due to back ailment. (Credit: Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Donald J. Trump’s presidential physical has many in the nation abuzz about whether all was revealed about our current President’s health. The White House doctor described him as being in great health, but outside experts have questioned that assessment given how high the President’s recorded cholesterol level is. Trump wouldn’t be the first president striving to portray himself as being in perfect health, though. Here are five more presidents who got sick while in office—but tried not to alert the public.

President John F. Kennedy on crutches due to back ailment. (Credit: Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

John F. Kennedy

The image most people had of John F. Kennedy was one of youth and vitality. And, that was on purpose. JFK in fact lived in near-constant pain, but his poor health was kept a closely guarded secret for fear of damaging his political career. He had allergies, stomach troubles and suffered from chronic back pain, which was aggravated by his WWII service and required numerous surgeries. The back injury allegedly happened in 1937 while he was a student at Harvard, and it initially disqualified him from military service (his father later used his connections to get JFK into the Naval Reserve). He’d been ill before the injury, too. As a child he suffered from gastrointestinal issues which were later diagnosed as Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder. In a strange twist of fate, one of the symptoms of Addison’s as well as a symptom of the steroids used to treat it is hyperpigmentation, which may be responsible for JFK’s perpetual “tan,” something viewers of his televised debate with Richard Nixon definitely noted.


Franklin Roosevelt in his wheelchair with his dog and Ruthie Bie, the daughter of the Hyde Park caretaker. (Credit: Corbis via Getty Images)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Today most Americans are aware that our longest serving President suffered from the effects of polio and relied on a wheelchair for mobility. However, during his tenure as commander in chief, FDR was able to hide the severity of his condition to an almost unimaginable extent by today’s standards. He was diagnosed with polio in 1921, when he was 39 years old. This was unusual because most polio victims at the time were children under the age of four. FDR worked tirelessly to rehabilitate his body in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Who Is Team History?

January 18, 2018 in History

By Team History

2018_teamHistoryimages_codyKeenan

Former Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama.


Historian and author, “The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.”

2018_teamHistoryimages_heatherAnnThompson-2
Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and author,” Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”

2018_teamHistoryimages_gillon
Resident Historian for HISTORY and Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma.

…read more

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Buy the Texas Ranch Where LBJ Hid from the Press

January 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

Just one week after taking the oath of office in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson bought a secluded parcel of land in Blanco County, Texas, to use as a private retreat from the stresses of life in the White House.

Today, LBJ’s former ranch on the property—377 Shiloh Road in Johnson City—is on sale for $2.8 million, including a three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling built on the foundations of Johnson’s former home. Located on 142 acres of Johnson’s original 800-acre spread, the property boasts stunning panoramic views of Central Texas.

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

In the spacious main house, Johnson’s bedroom and bathroom have even been preserved, including a massive stone fireplace and wall-to-wall windows in the master bedroom and the president’s original tub in the stone-tiled bathroom. A smaller cottage on the property, which has one bedroom and one bathroom, housed the Secret Service during Johnson’s stays at the ranch.


The Secret Service members had their own quarters on the property — a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage, which is still standing today. (Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

After he announced he would not seek reelection in 1968, amid widespread protests over his administration’s Vietnam War policy, an exhausted Johnson left the White House and retreated to his happy place: Texas hill country. According to a 1973 report in the Atlantic, he gave strict orders to his staff to keep the press far away.

LBJ did not stay idle in retirement, however. He supervised the construction of the LBJ Presidential Library complex at the University of Texas, authored a book (The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969) and, of course, worked the land on his beloved ranch.

This was not the secluded hilltop hideaway on sale today, but the nearby 330-acre property on the Pedernales River that Johnson purchased from his aunt in 1951, when he was still a U.S. senator. During his presidential administration, the LBJ Ranch (now part of the LBJ National Historical Park) became known as “the Texas White House,” as Johnson conducted so much business there, including receiving many world leaders.

After Johnson’s death in 1973, his wife, Lady Bird, continued to live at the ranch part time until her own death in 2007.

<img class="wp-image-201038 size-full" src="http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2018/01/LBJ-rach-4.jpg" alt="The property’s current owners are Italian artist Benini and his wife Lorraine, who purchased it in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Buy the Texas Ranch Where LBJ Hid from the Press

January 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

Just one week after taking the oath of office in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson bought a secluded parcel of land in Blanco County, Texas, to use as a private retreat from the stresses of life in the White House.

Today, LBJ’s former ranch on the property—377 Shiloh Road in Johnson City—is on sale for $2.8 million, including a three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling built on the foundations of Johnson’s former home. Located on 142 acres of Johnson’s original 800-acre spread, the property boasts stunning panoramic views of Central Texas.

(Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

In the spacious main house, Johnson’s bedroom and bathroom have even been preserved, including a massive stone fireplace and wall-to-wall windows in the master bedroom and the president’s original tub in the stone-tiled bathroom. A smaller cottage on the property, which has one bedroom and one bathroom, housed the Secret Service during Johnson’s stays at the ranch.

After he announced he would not seek reelection in 1968, amid widespread protests over his administration’s Vietnam War policy, an exhausted Johnson left the White House and retreated to his happy place: Texas hill country. According to a 1973 report in the Atlantic, he gave strict orders to his staff to keep the press far away.


The Secret Service members had their own quarters on the property — a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage, which is still standing today. (Image courtesy of Coldwell Banker)

LBJ did not stay idle in retirement, however. He supervised the construction of the LBJ Presidential Library complex at the University of Texas, authored a book (The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969) and, of course, worked the land on his beloved ranch.

This was not the secluded hilltop hideaway on sale today, but the nearby 330-acre property on the Pedernales River that Johnson purchased from his aunt in 1951, when he was still a U.S. senator. During his presidential administration, the LBJ Ranch (now part of the LBJ National Historical Park) became known as “the Texas White House,” as Johnson conducted so much business there, including receiving many world leaders.

After Johnson’s death in 1973, his wife, Lady Bird, continued to live at the ranch part time until her own death in 2007.

<img class="wp-image-201150 size-full" src="http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2018/01/048_Le-Stelle-Studio-Building.jpg" alt="The property’s current owners are Italian artist Benini and his wife Lorraine, who purchased it in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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This Huge Women’s March Drowned Out a Presidential Inauguration in 1913

January 17, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The official program of the Woman Suffrage Procession on March 3, 1913, in Washington, DC. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

As Woodrow Wilson and his aides waited for the train to pull into the station, they braced themselves for crowds and chaos. The Democratic nominee had beaten both a sitting president—incumbent William Howard Taft—and a former one, Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as a third-party candidate. Now, he was on the verge of moving into the White House—and more convinced than ever that God had destined him to become President.

Expecting a hero’s welcome in Washington on the day before his inauguration as the 28th President of the United States, Wilson and his aides were surprised to be met not with a bang, but a whimper. A few college students greeted him with a song, but the train platform was strangely bare.

“Where are all the people?” an aide asked.

“Watching the parade,” someone replied.

The start of Wilson’s presidency had just been overshadowed by a historic event—a massive suffrage parade that relegated his inauguration to a mere historical footnote. More than a century before the Women’s March diverted attention from the inauguration of President Donald Trump and made headlines of its own, the unconventional parade captured the nation’s attention, galvanizing public support and setting the stage for Wilson’s turbulent relationship with the women’s movement.

The official program of the Woman Suffrage Procession on March 3, 1913, in Washington, DC. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the time, the concept of suffrage for women was still broadly unpopular in the United States. Though some states allowed women to vote, the idea rankled men and women who thought that women should stay home and let their husbands exercise political power. Though suffragists had long agitated for the vote, the movement felt stagnant and lacked national support, and the defeat of Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in the recent election felt like a further blow to the prospect of suffrage.

The national movement might have lacked energy, but Alice Paul didn’t. The 28-year-old had just returned to the United States from a kind of suffrage apprenticeship in England, where she had become friends with radical suffragists and learned more about their militant tactics. Paul was passionately committed to the cause, and she thought American suffragists could learn a thing or two from their English sisters.

<span …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Rats Didn’t Spread the Black Death—It Was Humans

January 17, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A flea infected with the plague. (Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Rats have long been blamed for spreading the Black Death around Europe in the 14th century. Specifically, historians have speculated that the fleas on rats are responsible for the estimated 25 million plague deaths between 1347 and 1351.

However, a new study suggests that rats weren’t the main carriers of fleas and lice that spread the plague—it was humans.

In a study published in January 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers simulated Black Death outbreaks in European cities to try and understand how the plague was spread. In their simulations, they looked at three possible models for infection: rats, airborne transmission, and fleas and ticks that humans carry around with them on their bodies and clothes.

A flea infected with the plague. (Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

In most of the cities, the model that focused on fleas and ticks on humans was the most accurate model for explaining the spread of the disease.Though it may come as a surprise to most readers, previous studies have backed up these findings. The consensus seems to be that the plague spread too fast for rats to be the culprit carriers.  

“It would be unlikely to spread as fast as it did if it was transmitted by rats,” Nils Stenseth, a professor at the University of Oslo and co-author of Monday’s study, told BBC News. “It would have to go through this extra loop of the rats, rather than being spread from person to person.”

It’s not clear where the belief that rats spread the plague came from in the first place. After all, the researchers write that “there is little historical and archaeological support for such a claim.” For example, if rats really were a main cause of the plague, there would be more archaeological evidence of dead rats.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Improbable Prohibition Agents Who Outsmarted Speakeasy Owners

January 16, 2018 in History

By George Pendle

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Isadore Einstein, known as “Izzy” to his friends, was no one’s idea of a G-man. Short, fat with numerous chins and thinning hair, he was so rotund that the great crime writer, Herbert Asbury, described his belly as moving “majestically ahead like the breast of an overfed pouter pigeon.” With his thick round spectacles perched on his nose, Izzy had all the looks of your below-average Joe. But it was precisely this unprepossessing appearance that would make him, and his similarly schlubby friend, Moe Smith, the greatest federal agents of their age.

That age was Prohibition. It’s a period that nearly 100 years on still seems like a fantastical blip in America’s history. From 1919 to 1933, the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution declared it illegal to produce, transport or sell alcohol, the result of years of lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It had been thought the decree would instill a more peaceable character onto the nation. However those 14 years saw the United States at its loudest, most violent and perversely, most entertaining. It was Prohibition that made the era roar.

When Prohibition went into effect in January 1919, Izzy Einstein lived on New York’s Lower East Side, struggling to keep his wife and four sons fed on a postal clerk’s salary. Reading in the newspaper that the newly created Prohibition Unit was looking for agents, he went down to the local bureau and applied. As Izzy recounted in his wisecracking memoir, Prohibition Agent No. 1, the bureau chief looked him up and down and told him he “wasn’t the type.”

But Izzy was not easily dissuaded. He argued that looking like an everyman was exactly what was needed in this dry new world. Moreover, although he had no gumshoe experience, Izzy insisted he understood people. He had been a salesman and could mix with people and gain their confidence. The bureau chief bought the argument and Izzy was given a badge and thrust out onto the mean streets of New York to sop up the booze that poured through the city’s speakeasies.

A peep hole in the door of a speakeasy during Prohibition. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Izzy’s lack of detective training proved to be something of a boon on his first assignment. In order to get a search warrant agents needed proof that alcohol was being sold on the …read more

Source: HISTORY