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August 18, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. The Constitution allows the states to determine the qualifications for voting, and until the 1910s most states disenfranchised women. The amendment was the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote. The Nineteenth Amendment's ratification effectively overturned Minor v. Happersett, in which a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote.
August 19, 1612: The "Samlesbury witches", three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, were put on trial, accused of practicing witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in British history. The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when the chief prosecution witness, Grace Sowerbutts, was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest." The trial of the Samlesbury witches is one clear example of what has been described as "largely a piece of anti-Catholic propaganda," and even as a show-trial, to demonstrate that Lancashire, considered at that time to be a wild and lawless region, was being purged not only of witches but also of "popish plotters."
August 20, 1882: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow, Russia. The overture written in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of its motherland against Napoleon's invading Grande Armée in 1812. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays, including those which occur in the United States in association with its Fourth of July celebrations. The piece has no connection to the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, but was personally conducted by Tchaikovsky in 1891 at the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
August 21, 1831: Nat Turner led a deadly slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths. The rebellion was ultimately suppressed within two days, but Turner would elude capture until October 30. Upon his arrest, he was quickly tried and convicted for "conspiring to rebel and making insurrection." He was executed on November 11, 1831, in the town of Jerusalem, Virginia (now known as Courtland)
August 22, 1485: The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought in what would be was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. The battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty. His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it a defining moment of English and Welsh history.
August 23, 1839: The United Kingdom captured Hong Kong as a base as it prepared for war with Qing China. The ensuing 3-year conflict will later be known as the First Opium War. Trade with China was heavily regulated and could only be conducted with silver, Growing demand in England for tea created significant trade deficits. However, in 1817, the British hit upon counter-trading in a narcotic drug, Indian opium, as a way to reduce the trade deficit. The Qing Administration originally tolerated opium importation, because it created an indirect tax on Chinese subjects, while allowing the British to double tea exports from China to England—which profited the monopoly for tea exports of the Qing imperial treasury and its agents. However, by 1820, China's accelerated opium consumption reversed the flow of silver, just when the Imperial Treasury needed to finance suppression of rebellions against the Qing. The Qing government began its efforts to end the opium trade, which would ultimately lead to conflict.
August 24, 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Hardliners in the Soviet leadership, calling themselves the 'State Emergency Committee', launched the coup in 1991 in an attempt to remove Gorbachev from power. During this time, Gorbachev spent three days (19, 20 and 21 August) under house arrest at a dacha in the Crimea before being freed and restored to power. However, upon his return, Gorbachev found that neither union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands as support had swung over to Boris Yeltsin, whose defiance had led to the coup's collapse. For all intents and purposes, the coup was the end politically for Gorbachev. On August 24th, he advised the Central Committee to dissolve, resigned as General Secretary and disbanded all party units within the government. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Soviet suspended all Party activities on Soviet territory. In effect, Communist rule in the Soviet Union had ended—thus eliminating the only unifying force left in the country.
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June 2, 1896: Guglielmo Marconi applied for a patent for his newest invention, the radio. As an entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of the The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in Britain in 1897, Marconi succeeded in making a commercial success of radio by innovating and building on the work of previous experimenters and physicists.
June 3, 1839: In Humen, China, Lin Tse-hsü destroyed 1.2 million kg of opium confiscated from British merchants, providing Britain with a casus belli to open hostilities, resulting in the First Opium War.
June 4, 1939: The MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 963 Jewish refugees, was denied permission to land in Florida, in the United States, after already being turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, more than 200 of its passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.
June 5, 1851: Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery serial, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, started a ten-month run in the National Era abolitionist newspaper. The novel changed forever how Americans viewed slavery, as it demanded an end of the institution, galvanized the abolition movement, and contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War.
June 6, 1844: The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution. George Williams, who had come to London to work as a sales assistant in a draper’s shop, joined a group of fellow drapers to organize the first YMCA in order to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets.
June 7, 1892: Homer Plessy was arrested for refusing to leave his seat in the “whites-only” car of a train. Plessy would lose the resulting court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, in 1896. The landmark United States Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
June 8, 1794: Robespierre inaugurated the French Revolution's new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, with large organized festivals all across France. The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul.