Milestones: Friday, August 18, 2023
LETTER FROM MOM CHANGED HIS VOTE — THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT TO U.S. CONSTITUTION, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, after the suffragettes’ long struggle. A now-legendary story about the last vote needed for ratification placed the amendment’s fate in the hands of a 24-year-old member of the Tennessee House, Rep. Harry T. Burn, of McMinn County, had voted “nay,” even though he reportedly had intended to vote for ratification before receiving telegrams from constituents to defeat the measure for the third time. However, as the legislature was voting, Rep Burn received a letter from his mom, Febb Ensminger Burn (excerpted here): “Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt … I’ve been watching to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet, Don’t forget to be a good boy.” Rep. Burn changed his mind again, and his single vote led to House approval, Tennessee’s ratification and the women’s right to vote enshrined in the Constitution.
Tennessee’s ratification was the last state needed to ratify, and hordes of pro- and anti-suffrage citizens descended on Nashville.
THE LOST COLONY — VIRGINIA DARE was the first child of English parents to be born in the New World, on Aug. 18, 1587 (old-calendar date), to Eleanor and Ananias Dare, at a settlement at Roanoke Island, North Carolina. However, the family soon disappeared in a mystery that was never solved. John White, Virginia Dare’s grandfather and the governor of the Roanoke Island colony (present-day North Carolina), returned from a supply trip to England to find the settlement deserted. White and his men found no trace of the 100 or so colonists he left behind, with no sign of violence or a struggle. Among the missing were Gov. White’s daughter, Eleanor, and Virginia Dare, who would have turned 3 on Aug. 18. The only clue to the colony’s disappearance was the word “CROATOAN” carved into the palisade (line of cliffs or other protective enclosure
Gov. White interpreted the word to mean that the colonists had moved to Croatoan Island, some 50 miles away. However, the settlers were not found during a search of that area.
KILLED IN EARTHQUAKE RELIEF MISSION — ROBERTO CLEMENTE, born Aug. 18, 1934, in Puerto Rico, was a National League right-fielder who played most career with the Pittsburgh Pirates following a brief stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers, starting in 1954, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s website. He was named to the Hall of Fame’s 1973 class following his untimely death the year before.
It was during a mission of mercy to deliver supplies to Nicaragua’s earthquake-stricken people that Clemente died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve, 1972. The crash was attributed to the small plane’s being overloaded and the engine’s misfiring upon takeoff from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua. There were no survivors.
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS HIT THE MARKET — THESE PILLS WENT ON THE MARKET on Aug. 18, 1960, after the FDA had issued its approval in May of that year. G.D. Searle Company, headquartered in Illinois, was the first to market the oral contraceptive commercially after six years of clinical trials. Drs. Gregory Pincus and Min Chueh Chang of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology and John Rock, a prominent Catholic gynecologist, were instrumental in the clinical development and testing of the birth control pill. However, the first set dosage of 00 to 175 µg of estrogen and 10 mg of progesterone proved toxic, with an increased risk for venous thromboembolism. The modern birth control pill contains only 30 to 50 µg of estrogen and 0.3 to 1 mg of progesterone, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics.
More than 1.2 million American women were using the “the pill” within two years of its entering the market, and since then, more than 30 million women have used what has been called one of modern medicine’s most significant advances. Recently, the FDA approved an over-the-counter version, named Opill, slated to be available in 2024.
FIRST BLACK U.S. OLYMPIC CAPTAIN — RAFER JOHNSON, born in Texas on Aug. 18, 1934, was the first Black captain of the U.S. Olympic team and carried the American flag into Rome’s Olympic Stadium in 1960 before winning gold in a thrilling two-day decathlon duel. He was competing in the decathlon against his friend and UCLA graduate C.K. Yang. His Olympic win gave him recognition as the world’s greatest all-around athlete. He retired and focused his energies on the Special Olympics. A friend of Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy, it was Johnson who helped subdue the slain senator’s assassin at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.
Rafer Johnson could also be seen in movies, appearing in “Wild in the Country” with Elvis Presley and the James Bond film “License to Kill” (1989). He had the honor of lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
COUP TARGETS GORBACHEV — Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was placed under house arrest on Aug. 18, 1991, during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces. He had gained both acclaim and notoriety for his reforms of the Soviet system since becoming the USSSR’s leader in 1988. Gorbachev had created a hybrid of perestroika (“restructuring”) of the economy, with a greater emphasis on free-market policies — and glasnost (“openness”) in diplomacy, and is credited with greatly improving Soviet relations with Western democracies. Yet Gorbachev faced criticism from both the conservative, hardline camp which believed he was leading the USSR toward its downfall and radical reformers such as Boris Yeltsin, who believed that progress was still too slow.
Following the coup, Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and resigned in December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Boris Yeltsin, capitalizing on these developments, emerged as the new and powerful leader in Moscow.
See previous milestones, here.
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