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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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July 14, 1881: Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Pat Garrett outside Fort Sumner. Rumors persist that Billy the Kid was not killed that night, but that Garrett, a known friend of the Kid's, may have staged it all so the Kid could escape the law.
July 15, 1799: The Rosetta Stone was found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard during Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three different scripts (with some minor differences among them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
July 16, 1941: Joe DiMaggio hit safely for the 56th consecutive game, a streak that still stands as a Major League Baseball record. DiMaggio batted .408 during the streak, with 15 home runs and 55 RBI. The day after the streak ended, DiMaggio started another streak that lasted 17 games. The distinction of hitting safely in 73 of 74 games is also a record.
July 17, 1762: Catherine II became tsar of Russia upon the murder of Peter III of Russia. She was longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from July 1762 until her death at the age of sixty-seven. Russia was revitalized under her reign, growing larger and stronger than ever and becoming recognized as one of the great powers of Europe.
July 18, 1976: Nadia Comăneci became the first person in Olympic Games history to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada. Comăneci was the first Romanian gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title. She also holds the record for being the youngest Olympic gymnastics all-around champion ever.
July 19, 1848: The two-day Women's Rights Convention opened in Seneca Falls, New York. Female Quakers local to the area organized the meeting along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a skeptical non-Quaker. The meeting had six sessions, included a lecture on law, a humorous presentation, and multiple discussions about the role of women in society.
July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 successfully maked the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon almost 7 hours later.
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June 16, 1816: Lord Byron read Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests at the Villa Diodati, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, and challenged each guest to write a ghost story. His challenge culminated in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, John Polidori's short story, The Vampyre, and Byron's poem, Darkness.
June 17, 1963: The United States Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against requiring the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord's Prayer in public schools.
June 18, 1815: The Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo thereby forcing Bonaparte to abdicate the throne of France for the second and final time.
June 19, 1865: Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas, United States, were finally informed of their freedom when General Gordon Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”. The anniversary is still officially celebrated in Texas and 13 other states as Juneteenth.
June 20, 1893: Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother. Andrew Borden and Abby Borden were brutally murdered on August 4, 1892, in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden was arrested for the murders a week later.
June 21, 1964: Three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
June 22, 2009: Eastman Kodak Company announced that it would discontinue sales of the Kodachrome Color Film, concluding its 74-year run as a photography icon.
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May 19, 1536: Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, was beheaded for adultery, treason, and incest. Despite having been condemned and abandoned by her husband, moments before her execution, she reportedly said, "I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord."
May 20, 1802: By the Law of 20 May 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte reinstated slavery in the French colonies, thereby revoking the Law of 4 February 1794 passed during the French Revolution which had abolished the practice.
May 21, 1881: Inspired by the work of the International Red Cross, Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons established the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters. in congruence with the International Red Cross.
May 22, 1964: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the goals of his Great Society social reforms to bring an "end to poverty and racial injustice" in America.
May 23, 1951: Tibetans signed the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet with the People's Republic of China. The terms of the agreement had not been cleared with the Tibetan Government before signing and the Tibetan Government was divided about whether it was better to accept the document as written or to flee into exile. The Dalai Lama, who by this time had ascended to the throne, chose not to flee into exile, and formally accepted the Seventeen Point Agreement in October 1951.
May 24, 1738: John Wesley was converted, essentially launching the Methodist movement; the day is celebrated annually by Methodists as Aldersgate Day and a church service is generally held on the preceding Sunday
May 25, 1935: Jesse Owens of Ohio State University broke three world records and tied a fourth at the Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A year later, Owens would go on to participate in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals. He was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Summer Olympics.