Today in 1958 Robert H.W. Welch, Jr., established the John Birch Society, dedicated to fighting what it perceived as infiltration of communism into American society. Welch named the society in honor of John Birch, a Baptist missionary and U.S. Army intelligence specialist, killed by Chinese communists in 1945.
The John Birch Society was initially founded with only 11 members, by the early 1960s grew to a membership of nearly 100,000 Americans and received annual contributions of several million dollars. The society made unsubstantiated accusations that a vast communist conspiracy existed within the U.S. government. Among others, the organization implicated President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. However, few of the society’s sensational charges were taken seriously by mainstream American society. The John Birch Society remains active today, and its members seek “to expose a semi-secret international cabal whose members sit in the highest places of influence and power worldwide.”
Today in 1972 “I Am Woman” recorded by Helen Reddy reached number one on the “Billboard Hot 100.”
Reddy emigrated from Australia and made her breakthrough with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (1971) from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
For a generation of American women raised on songs like “Johnny Angel,” “It’s My Party” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “I Am Woman” represented something almost entirely new in mainstream pop: A song about female identity that made virtually no reference to men.
“I was looking for songs that reflected the positive sense of self that I felt I’d gained from the women’s movement, I couldn’t find any. I realized that the song I was looking for didn’t exist, and I was going to have to write it myself.”
“I Am Woman” initially sputtered in its attempt to gain a foothold on the pop charts. It had fallen completely off the charts by late that summer, before re-entering the Hot 100 in September and beginning a steady climb upward thanks to Reddy’s frequent appearances on television that fall and to the volume of call-in radio requests those appearances generated—mainly from women. The song took the message of personal empowerment being espoused by feminists of the early 1970s . Helen Reddy would have two further #1 hits in the 1970s with “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby,” but “I Am Woman”—the only hit song that Reddy penned herself—remains her signature achievement.
Today in 1993 seven astronauts aboard the shuttle Endeavour completed the 10-day mission of extensive maintenance of the Hubble telescope, orbiting 347 miles above the earth. The priority was installation of corrective optics and installation of instruments and equipment.
At the time, the mission was one of the most complex ever undertaken, involving five lengthy periods of extra-vehicular activity.On January 13, 1994, NASA declared the mission a complete success and showed the first of many much sharper images.
Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile. The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. The HST is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Hubble was launched April 24, 1990 aboard the shuttle Discovery and is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Between 1993 and 2002, four missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope; a fifth mission was completed in 2009 by Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The telescope is now expected to function until at least 2013. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is to be launched in 2018 or possibly later.
Happy birthday Clarence Frank Birdseye II, American inventor, entrepreneur, naturalist and founder of the modern frozen food industry, who was born today in 1886 at Brooklyn, New York.
Birdseye developed a method of quick-freezing and in 1929 sold his company General Seafood Corporation and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company, which eventually became General Foods Corporation, and which founded the Birds Eye Frozen Food Company. Birdseye continued to work with the company, further developing frozen food technology.
Birdseye died on November 7, 1956, of a stroke at Gloucester, Massachusetts. He was 69 years old. He was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.