It’s Tuesday! Did you know…
* 1893 New Zealand becomes the first country to grant all women the right to vote.
On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
In most other democracies – including Britain and the United States – women did not win the right to the vote until after the First World War. New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage became a central part of our image as a trail-blazing ‘social laboratory’.
That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. In 1891, 1892 and 1893 they compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. In recent years Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s history has been acknowledged on the $10 note.
Today, the idea that women could not or should not vote is completely foreign to New Zealanders. Following the 2014 election, 31% of our Members of Parliament were female, compared with 9% in 1981. In the early 21st century women have held each of the country’s key constitutional positions: prime minister, governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice.
* 1957 Nevada is site of first-ever underground nuclear explosion.
On this day in 1957, the United States detonates a 1.7 kiloton nuclear weapon in an underground tunnel at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,375 square mile research center located 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The test, known as Rainier, was the first fully contained underground detonation and produced no radioactive fallout. A modified W-25 warhead weighing 218 pounds and measuring 25.7 inches in diameter and 17.4 inches in length was used for the test. Rainier was part of a series of 29 nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons safety tests known as Operation Plumbbob that were conducted at the NTS between May 28, 1957, and October 7, 1957.
In December 1941, the U.S. government committed to building the world’s first nuclear weapon when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized $2 billion in funding for what came to be known as the Manhattan Project. The first nuclear weapon test took place on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. A few weeks later, on August 6, 1945, with the U.S. at war against Japan, President Harry Truman authorized the dropping of an atomic bomb named Little Boy over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on August 9, a nuclear bomb called Fat Man was dropped over Nagasaki. Two hundred thousand people, according to some estimates, were killed in the attacks on the two cities and on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers.
1957’s Operation Plumbbob took place at a time when the U.S. was engaged in a Cold War and nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. In 1963, the U.S. signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. A total of 928 tests took place at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992 when the U.S. conducted its last underground nuclear test. In 1996, the U.S signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear detonations in all environments.
* 1973 Death of country-rock pioneer leads inspires car crime.
On September 19, 1973, 26-year-old musician Gram Parsons dies of “multiple drug use” (morphine and tequila) in a California motel room. His death inspired one of the more bizarre automobile-related crimes on record: Two of his friends stashed his body in a borrowed hearse and drove it into the middle of the Joshua Tree National Park, where they doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.
Parsons’ music helped define the country-rock sound, and his records have influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Wilco. But like many musicians of his generation, Parsons struggled with drugs and alcohol. His childhood was unhappy: His father committed suicide when he was 12, and his mother died of alcohol poisoning on the day he graduated from high school. He dropped out of Harvard and moved to California, where he played with bands like the Byrds (on their seminal album Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and the Flying Burrito Brothers and released two celebrated solo albums with the then-unknown Emmylou Harris singing backup.
At a friend’s funeral a few months before he died, Parsons made a drunken pact with his road manager Phil Kaufman: If anything should happen to one of them, the other would take his body to Joshua Tree and cremate it. And so, after Parsons’ overdose, Kaufman and a roadie named Michael Martin met his coffin at the Los Angeles airport (for complicated reasons involving a disputed inheritance, his stepfather had arranged for it to be flown to Louisiana for a private funeral) in a borrowed hearse with broken windows and no license plates. (The hearse belonged to Martin’s girlfriend, who used it to carry tents and other gear on camping trips.) They convinced the airport staff that the Parsons family had changed its mind about the flight, loaded the coffin into the car, and drove 200 miles to the Mojave Desert, stopping along the way to fill a five-gallon tin can with gasoline. They drove into Joshua Tree and dragged the coffin to the foot of the majestic Cap Rock, where they doused it with the gas and tossed on a match.
Kaufman and Martin were arrested, but since stealing bodies was not actually a crime in California, they were fined $300 each, plus $750 for the ruined coffin. (They raised the money by holding a “Kaper Koncert” starring Bobby Pickett & the Cryptkeepers, who played their hit “Monster Mash” over and over.) Parsons’ remains are buried in New Orleans.
* 1955 Peron deposed in Argentina.
After a decade of rule, Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron is deposed in a military coup. Peron, a demagogue who came to power in 1946 with the backing of the working classes, became increasingly authoritarian as Argentina’s economy declined in the early 1950s. His greatest political resource was his charismatic wife, Eva “Evita” Peron, but she died in 1952, signaling the collapse of the national coalition that had backed him. Having antagonized the church, students, and others, he was forced into exile by the military in September 1955. He settled in Spain, where he served as leader-in-exile to the “Peronists”–a powerful faction of Argentines who remained loyal to him and his system.
Born into a lower middle-class family in 1895, Juan Domingo Peron built a career in the army, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. In 1943, he was a leader of a group of military conspirators that overthrew Argentina’s ineffectual civilian government. Requesting for himself the seemingly minor cabinet post of secretary of labor and social welfare, he began building a political empire based in the labor unions. By 1945, he was also vice president and minister of war in the military regime.
In 1945, Peron oversaw the return of political freedoms in the country, but this led to unrest and mass demonstrations by opposition groups. Peron’s enemies in the navy seized the opportunity and had him arrested on October 9. Labor unions organized strikes and rallies in protest of his imprisonment, and Peron’s beautiful paramour, the radio actress Eva Duarte, was highly effective in enlisting the public to the cause. On October 17, Peron was released, and that night he addressed a crowd of some 300,000 people from the balcony of the presidential palace. He vowed to lead the people to victory in the coming presidential election. Four days later, Peron, a widower, married Eva Duarte, or Evita, as she became affectionately known.
In the subsequent presidential campaign, Peron suppressed the liberal opposition, and his Labor Party won a narrow, but complete, election victory. President Peron removed political opponents from their positions in the government, courts, and schools, nationalized public services, and improved wages and working conditions. Although he restricted constitutional liberties, he won overwhelming support from the masses of poor workers, whom Evita Peron called los descamisados or the “shirtless ones.” Evita served an important role in the government, unofficially leading the Department of Social Welfare and taking over her husband’s role as caretaker of the working classes. She was called the “First Worker of Argentina” and “Lady of Hope,” and was instrumental in securing passage of a woman suffrage law.
In 1950, Argentina’s postwar export boom tapered off, and inflation and corruption grew. After being reelected in 1951, Peron became more conservative and repressive and seized control of the press to control criticism of his regime. In July 1952, Evita died of cancer, and support for President Peron among the working classes became decidedly less pronounced. His attempt to force the separation of church and state was met with considerable controversy. In June 1955, church leaders excommunicated him, encouraging a clique of military officers to plot his overthrow. On September 19, 1955, the army and navy revolted, and Peron was forced to flee to Paraguay. In 1960, he settled in Spain.
Meanwhile, a string of civilian and military governments failed to resolve Argentina’s economic troubles. The memory of Peron’s regime improved with time, and Peronismo became the most powerful political force in the country. In 1971, the military regime of General Alejandro Lanusse announced his intention to restore constitutional democracy in 1973, and Peron was allowed to visit Argentina in 1972. In March 1973, Peronists won control of the government in national elections, and Peron returned in June amid great public excitement and fighting among Peronist factions.
In October 1973, Peron was elected president in a special election. His wife, Isabel Peron, an Argentine dancer he married in 1961, was elected vice president. She was much resented by millions still devoted to the memory of Evita Peron.
Economic troubles continued in Peron’s second presidency and were made worse by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that devastated Argentina’s beef industry. When Peron died on July 1, 1974, his wife became president of a nation suffering from inflation, political violence, and labor unrest. In March 1976, she was deposed in an air-force-led coup, and a right-wing military junta took power that brutally ruled Argentina until 1982.
* 2000 Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel debuts.
“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” a novel by Michael Chabon about the glory years of the American comic book, is published on this day in 2000. The book went on to win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Chabon, who was born in Washington, D.C., in 1963, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine. His first novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” a coming-of-age story set in the city named in the title, was written as his graduate school thesis. Published in 1988, the book became a best-seller and was later made into a movie.
Chabon spent five years working on his next novel before abandoning it and starting on a new book, “Wonder Boys.” Released in 1995, “Wonder Boys” centers on an aging professor struggling to complete his years-in-the-making second tome; a Hollywood adaptation starring Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire was released in 2000. That year also saw the debut of Chabon’s third novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” an epic story about comic book creators in New York in the mid-20th century. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” received a slew of other literary honors.
Among Chabon’s other credits are “Summerland,” a 2002 fantasy novel for young adults; “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” a 2007 detective novel; and “Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son,” a 2009 essay collection. He has also written screenplays and several collections of short stories.
Chabon is married to novelist Ayelet Waldman, with whom he has four children. In 2005, Waldman became known for a controversial essay on marriage and motherhood in which she wrote, “I love my husband more than I love my children.”
In 2010, Chabon was elected the chairman of the board of directors of the MacDowell Colony, a prestigious artists’ retreat based in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where he once penned parts of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.”
New Zealand History https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage
* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport http://www.onthisday.com/
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/