Today in 1777, Continental Congressman John Adams wrote three letters to and received two letters from his wife, Abigail. He is with Congress in Philadelphia, while she maintained their farm in Braintree, Massachusetts.
The remarkable correspondence between Abigail and John Adams—numbering 1,160 letters in total—covered topics ranging from politics and military strategy to household economy and family health. Their mutual respect and adoration served as evidence that even in an age when women were unable to vote, there were nonetheless marriages in which wives and husbands were true intellectual and emotional equals.
In the second letter John drafted to Abigail he declared that Philadelphia had “lost its vibrancy during Congress’ removal to Baltimore. This City is a dull Place, in Comparason [sic] of what it was. More than one half the Inhabitants have removed to the Country, as it was their Wisdom to do—the Remainder are chiefly Quakers as dull as Beetles. From these neither good is to be expected nor Evil to be apprehended. They are a kind of neutral Tribe, or the Race of the insipids.”
By contrast, Adams described the Loyalists, who” prepared their Minds and Bodies, Houses and Cellars, to receive General William Howe should he attack, as a Pack of sordid Scoundrels male and female.”
In the letters John received, which Abigail had written in February, she bemoaned not only the difficulty of correspondence during war, but also of the lack of military fervor demonstrated by the New Englanders around her. She wrote that she “awaited greater patriotism, greater prosperity and future correspondence from her beloved husband” to his devoted Portia. Portia, Adams’ nickname for his wife was likely a reference to the intelligent and devoted heroine of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Today in 1988 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time the Writers Guild of America (WGA) called a strike after rejecting the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) final offer.
At issue was the producers demand that writers accept a sliding scale on residuals. Writers balked at this restriction; they also wanted a bigger share of foreign rights and more creative control over the scripts they were writing.
Near the end of July, both producers and writers modified their positions in time for a meeting in early August at the headquarters of the AMPTP in Sherman Oaks, California. Sixteen hours later, the strike was over, after the two sides struck a deal by which producers upped the payment for foreign rights and writers agreed to the sliding scale on syndication residuals.
The five-month walkout had an effect. Overall network ratings dropped 4.6 percent that fall from a year earlier, and many viewers began watching cable channels, which were not affected by the strike because they showed little original programming. Overall, the walkout was estimated to have cost Hollywood some $500 million.
Today in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for her movie “The Hurt Locker.” Prior to Bigelow, only three women had been nominated for a best director Oscar: Lina Wertmueller for “Seven Beauties” (1975); Jane Campion for “The Piano” (1993); and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” (2003).
After making history at the 82nd Academy Awards, Bigelow said, “I hope I’m the first of many [women], and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point.”
Today in 1923 The New Republic published Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The poem, beginning with the famous line “Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though,” has introduced millions of American students to poetry. Like most of Frost’s poetry, “Stopping by Woods” adopts the tone of a simple New England farmer contemplating an everyday site.
He published a collection called A Boy’s Will (1913), which won praise from English critics and helped him win a U.S. publishing contract for his second book, North of Boston (1914). The American public took a liking to Frost. He continued to publish books and taught and lectured at Amherst, University of Michigan, Harvard, and Dartmouth, and read his poetry at the inauguration of President Kennedy.
Although Frost never graduated from a university, he had collected 44 honorary degrees before he died in 1963.
Today in 1885, the Kansas legislature enacted a strict quarantine that closed all of Kansas to Texan cattle for all but the winter months of December, January, and February-the time of the year when tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease were not as prevalent.
Texans had adopted the practice of driving cattle northward to railheads in Kansas shortly after the Civil War. From 1867 to 1871, the most popular route was the legendary Chisholm Trail that ran from San Antonio to Abilene. Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.
As Kansas lost some of their Wild West frontier edge the cowboys and their cattle became less attractive. Upstanding town residents anxious to attract investment capital and nurture local businesses became increasingly impatient with rowdy young cowboys and their messy cattle. Although the cowboys attempted to respect farm boundaries, stray cattle often wreaked havoc with farmers’ crops. “There was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler,” reported one cowboy.
The open range was rapidly closing, hemmed in by miles and miles of barbed wire fence. With the extension of rail lines into Texas itself, the reason for making the long drives north to Kansas began to disappear by the late 1880s anyway. The Kansas quarantine laws became irrelevant as most Texans could more easily ship cattle via railheads in their own states.
Today in1987, Mike Tyson defeated James “Bonecrusher” Smith to unify the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Already the youngest-ever heavyweight champion after winning the title at just 19 years old the year before, Tyson became the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing history. When Tyson entered the professional ranks at 18, he seemed unstoppable. He won his first 19 fights by knockout, 15 of those coming in the first round.
Unable to keep his focus on boxing, Tyson lost the heavyweight title after being knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas in a stunning upset on February 11, 199
Today in 1774 King George III’s speech to Parliament charged the colonists with attempting to injure British commerce and subvert the Constitution. On the 18th Lord North brought in the Port Bill. It outlawed the use of the Port of Boston for “landing and discharging, loading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise” until restitution was made to the King’s treasury (for customs duty lost) and to the East India Company for damages suffered. In other words, it closed Boston Port to all ships, no matter what business the ship had. The Act was a response to the Boston Tea Party and was to take effect on June 2. The Act was to take effect on June 2.
Today in 1927 the Supreme Court decision in Nixon v. Herndon struck down a 1923 Texas law that forbade blacks from voting in the Texas Democratic primary. Due to the limited amount of Republican Party activity in Texas at the time following the suppression of black voting through poll taxes, the Democratic Party primary was essentially the only competitive process and chance to choose among candidates.
Happy birthday Janet Guthrie, race car driver, born today in 1938 at Iowa City, Iowa.
In 1976 Guthrie was the first woman to compete in a National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup superspeedway race. The following year, she broke the gender barrier again, becoming the first female driver in the Daytona 500, where she finished in 12th place and earned Top Rookie honors. In 1977, Guthrie became the first female driver to qualify for and compete in the Indianapolis 500. (She was forced to drop out of her first Indy 500 on lap 27 due to mechanical problems.) In 1978 she was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she finished the race in ninth place. Guthrie’s record stood among female drivers until 2005, when Danica Patrick came in fourth place at the 89th Indy 500.
Guthrie drove in her final Indy 500 in 1979 and her last Daytona 500 in 1980. In 1983, a lack of sponsors forced her to quit the male-dominated world of auto racing. In 2005, her autobiography, “Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle,” was published and the following year she was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Today, her helmet and driver’s suit are in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.