John’s Believe It Or Not… December 23rd

* 1983 – Jeanne Sauvé named as Canada’s first female Governor General. * 1888 Van Gogh chops off ear. * 1968 Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea. * 1959 Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri. * 1993 Hanks stars in first major Hollywood movie about AIDS.

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Jeanne Sauvé (Jeanne Sauvé Foundation)

It’s Saturday! Did You Know…

* 1983 – Jeanne Sauvé named as Canada’s first female Governor General.

Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé PC CC CMM CD (née Benoît) (April 26, 1922 – January 26, 1993) was a Canadian journalist, politician, and stateswoman. She was the first woman in Canadian history to become Governor General. She was a notable first female in a variety of additional positions, including Speaker of House the Commons, and was dedicated to the pursuit of peace and the advancement of youth.

Sauvé had been a long-time sufferer from cancer. In the weeks leading to her inauguration she unexpectedly became ill, and nearly died in the hospital. She made a surprising recovery, however, and was ultimately able to be sworn in on May 14, 1984, without delay.

Sauvé was a staunch advocate of issues surrounding youth and world peace, and the dove of peace is one of the elements incorporated into Sauvé’s coat-of-arms. Long before her vice-regal mandate, she worked as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat of UNESCO, served as Secretary of the Canadian Committee for the World Assembly of Youth, and initiated and hosted a discussion show for youth. At Rideau Hall, she established two awards for students wishing to enter the field of special education for exceptional children. And at the end of her mandate, she established the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation, dedicated to the cause of youth excellence in Canada.

Sauvé’s concern for youth and peace were two of the three central themes of her mandate—the third was national unity. She traveled extensively, making her role as Governor General—a largely symbolic office—accessible to all Canadians. In her installation speech, she spoke about the need for Canadians to forgo a narrow sense of their nation and to become more tolerant. “This is the price of our happiness,” she said, “but happiness will never be found in the spirit of ‘every man for himself’.”

Sauvé was an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada Club H16929. Fort Sauvé at Royal Military College of Canada was named in her honor.

In 1986, Sauvé accepted on behalf of the “People of Canada” the Nansen Medal, a prestigious international humanitarian award which is given in recognition of major and sustained efforts made on behalf of refugees. This was the first time since the medal’s inception in 1954 that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees presented it to an entire population. The Nansen Medal is kept at Rideau Hall.

Sauvé’s enthusiasm for the value of sports led her to establish the Jeanne Sauvé Trophy for the world cup championship in women’s field hockey. She also created the Jeanne Sauvé Fair Play Award to recognize national amateur athletes who best demonstrate fair play and non-violence in sport. She also encouraged a safer society in Canada by establishing the Governor General’s Award for Safety in the Workplace.

Jeanne Sauve with her husband on Parliament Hill

* 1888 Van Gogh chops off ear.

On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for record-breaking prices; however, during his lifetime, he was a poster boy for tortured starving artists and sold only one painting.

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in the Netherlands. He had a difficult, nervous personality and worked unsuccessfully at an art gallery and then as a preacher among poor miners in Belgium. In 1880, he decided to become an artist. His work from this period–the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters (1885)–is dark and somber and reflective of the experiences he had among peasants and impoverished miners.

In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris where his younger brother Theo, with whom he was close, lived. Theo, an art dealer, supported his brother financially and introduced him to a number of artists, including Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. Influenced by these and other painters, Van Gogh’s own artistic style lightened up and he began using more color.

In 1888, Van Gogh rented a house in Arles in the south of France, where he hoped to found an artists’ colony and be less of a burden to his brother. In Arles, Van Gogh painted vivid scenes from the countryside as well as still-lifes, including his famous sunflower series. Gauguin came to stay with him in Arles and the two men worked together for almost two months. However, tensions developed and on December 23, in a fit of dementia, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and mutilating his earlobe. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel. Following that incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles and then checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay in Saint-Remy, he fluctuated between periods of madness and intense creativity, in which he produced some of his best and most well-known works, including Starry Night and Irises.

In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where he continued to be plagued by despair and loneliness. On July 27, 1890, he shot himself and died two days later at age 37.

Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear
Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear

* 1968 Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea.

The crew and captain of the U.S. intelligence gathering ship Pueblo are released after 11 months imprisonment by the government of North Korea. The ship and its 83-man crew were seized by North Korean warships on January 23 and charged with intruding into North Korean waters.

The seizure infuriated U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Later, he claimed that he strongly suspected (although it could not be proven) that the incident with the Pueblo, coming just a few days before the communist Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, was a coordinated diversion. At the time, however, Johnson did little. The Tet Offensive, which began just a week after the ship was taken by North Korea, exploded on the front pages and televisions of America and seemed to paralyze the Johnson administration. To deal with the Pueblo incident, the United States urged the U.N.’s Security Council to condemn the action and pressured the Soviet Union to negotiate with the North Koreans for the ship’s release.

It was 11 long months before the Pueblo‘s men were freed. Both captain and crew were horribly treated and later recounted their torture at the hands of the North Koreans. With no help in sight, Captain Lloyd Bucher reluctantly signed a document confessing that the ship was spying on North Korea. With this propaganda victory in hand, the North Koreans released the prisoners and also returned the body of one crewman who died in captivity. Some Americans criticized Johnson for not taking decisive retaliatory action against North Korea; others argued that he should have used every diplomatic means at his disposal to secure a quick release for the crew. In any case, the event was another blow to Johnson and America’s Cold War foreign policy.

Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea on December 23, 1968
Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea on December 23, 1968 (Old Sailors Almanac)

* 1959 Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri.

On December 23, 1959, Chuck Berry is arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, on charges relating to his transportation of a 14-year-old girl across state lines for allegedly “immoral purposes.”

“Never saw a man so changed,” is how the great Carl Perkins described the experience of touring England in 1964 alongside Chuck Berry. “He had been an easygoing guy before, the kinda guy who’d jam in dressing rooms, sit and swap licks and jokes. [But] in England he was cold, real distant and bitter.” The “before” to which Perkins referred was the four-year period from 1956 to 1959, when Berry established his reputation as one of rock and roll’s founding fathers, not only turning out such classic hits as “Maybellene” and “Johnny B. Goode,” but also establishing the very template that nearly every rock and roll guitarist after him would follow. What had changed Chuck Berry, in Perkins’ opinion, was partly the long, hard grind of years and years of one-night-only live performances, but, as Perkins also said, “I figure it was mostly jail.” Between 1960 and 1963, the man who helped invent rock and roll spent 20 months in federal prison following his conviction on charges of violating the Mann Act.

The Mann Act is the common name for a piece of federal legislation originally known as the United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. Though intended as a tool for cracking down on organized prostitution, the vague language of the Mann Act regarding the transportation of women for “immoral purposes” rendered its provisions broadly unenforceable. It has been selectively applied in various high-profile cases over time, however—most famously in Berry’s and in that of the heavyweight boxing great Jack Johnson.

In Berry’s case, the Mann Act charges stemmed from what Berry contended was his offer of legitimate employment in his St. Louis nightclub to a girl he had met in a bar in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks after being fired from Berry’s nightclub, 14-year-old Janice Norine Escalanti took a different story to the St. Louis police, and Berry was arrested two days later, on this day in 1959.

Berry’s defense was not found credible by the all-male, all-white jury at his first trial, and he was convicted on March 11, 1960, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Although he would have his conviction vacated and a new trial ordered by a Federal Appeals Court in October 1960 due to disparaging racial comments made by the judge in his original trial, Berry would be convicted again on retrial in March 1961 and serve the better part of the next two years in prison.

Chuck Berry on stage
Chuck Berry (nodepression.com)

* 1993 Hanks stars in first major Hollywood movie about AIDS.

On this day in 1993, Philadelphia, starring the actor Tom Hanks in the first major Hollywood movie to focus on the subject of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), opens in theaters. In the film, Hanks played Andrew Beckett, a gay attorney who is unjustly fired from his job because he suffers from AIDS. Denzel Washington co-starred as Joe Miller, a homophobic personal-injury lawyer who takes on Beckett’s case and comes to terms with his own misconceptions about gay people and the disease.

Directed by Jonathan Demme (Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) and featuring Antonio Banderas as Beckett’s boyfriend, Jason Robards as his boss and Joanne Woodward as his mother, Philadelphia was nominated for five Academy Awards and collected Oscars for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Song (Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”). During his Academy Award acceptance speech, Hanks thanked his high school drama teacher and a fellow classmate, calling them, “two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age.” Prior to Philadelphia, only a handful of smaller films, such as 1986’s Parting Glances and 1990’s Longtime Companion, had dealt with AIDS, which emerged as an epidemic in the early 1980s and was initially heavily stigmatized because it was perceived as a disease of gay people and drug users.

Before making Philadelphia, Hanks, who was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California, co-starred in the 1980s TV sitcom Bosom Buddies and rose to fame on the big screen with roles in Splash! (1984) and Big (1988), for which he received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Hanks followed his Best Actor win for Philadelphia with a second Best Actor Oscar for his performance in 1994’s Forrest Gump, in which he played a good-hearted man with a low I.Q. who winds up at the center of key cultural and historical events during the second half of the 20th century. With Forrest Gump, Hanks became only the second man, after Spencer Tracy, to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars.

 

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in "Philadelphia."
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in “Philadelphia.” (Time Out)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* New World Encyclopedia                                                      http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeanne_Sauv%C3%A9

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/    

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

24 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… December 23rd”

  1. Reblogged this on When Women Inspire and commented:
    Thanks John Fioravanti for including Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé in your recent Believe It or Not series. She was the first woman Canadian history to take the position of Governor General, in addition to being the first female Speaker of the House the Commons (1980), and being an advocate for peace. Please follow John’s informative blog while you are over there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, this is an enlightening post. I knew nothing of Van Gogh’s life, prior to reading this today. It seems so many great creative souls were tortured in some way. Chuck Berry was not an exception, in that he was tortured as well. So sad, but again, I know so little about his life and unfortunately, do not trust our legal system enough to believe he had a fair trial. On a happier note, Tom Hanks was incredible in Philadelphia. I’ve enjoyed every movie I’ve seen him in.
    Thank you, John, for this teaching moment. I always learn from your posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always enjoyed Tom Hanks movies. I think his best was “Saving Private Ryan.” A powerful performance. The Pueblo incident underscored the lack of effectiveness of not only the US diplomatic corps but also the UN. Good post, John

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Now if Van Gogh had been Duchamp he would have exhibited that ear as a work of art.
    The trial of Chuck Berry sounded very contrived to me. They wanted to shut down Rock ‘n’ Roll and set about doing it. It was also racist.
    I don’t think Chuck ever recovered from it. He had a real chip on his shoulder. Never trusted anyone – particularly white people. He’d been ripped off by promoters, record labels and the law. He toured with scratch bands, demanded money up front and only made a handful of decent tracks afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

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