The elements that make you come from the stars
“We’re made of starstuff.”
Carl Sagan’s famous quote underscores one of the most profound and fundamental facts of astronomy: the planets, stars and galaxies that appear so unimaginably far away from us are in fact connected to each living being on this pale blue dot by a vast and rich cosmic order.
A few minutes after the Big Bang, the explosion that created our universe, tiny particles called protons and neutrons joined together to form the first atomic nuclei, and soon the first atoms, mostly hydrogen and helium, but also small amounts of other stuff like deuterium (a heavier version of hydrogen) and lithium. It took perhaps hundreds of millions of years for these elements to fuse together in the cores of the first stars, which formed heavier elements such as the familiar carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.
Each subsequent generation of stars forged heavier elements than its predecessors, populating the universe with the hundred or so elements that we know occur naturally. Low-mass stars like our sun end their lives by gradually distributing their heavy elements into the surrounding interstellar medium (i.e. the space between the stars) by winds, forming beautiful objects called planetary nebulae. More massive stars end their lives by violent, brilliant explosions called supernovae which not only produce heavy metals like iron and copper, but also expel these elements to much larger distances. These explosions leave behind dense stellar corpses, either neutron stars, or the more popularly known, black holes.
As the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discoveries of the past decade have revealed, neutron stars and/or black holes can sometimes collide together to send ripples through space-time and in the process create some of the most precious metals known to humanity — gold, silver, platinum and so on. Therefore, when stars die, they disperse the heavy elements they form throughout their lives out to very far away. Today, we know that elements heavier than hydrogen and helium exist in significant amounts not just in the interstellar medium of all galaxies, but indeed beyond galaxies as well. These elements actually allow hydrogen gas to cool more easily, thus speeding up nuclear fusion in stellar cores, allowing stars to form more easily, which in turn forms more of these elements. And the whole cycle repeats.
Life on earth is believed to have emerged at least 3.5 billion years ago, but nobody knows whether it started from simple organic compounds already existing on earth or whether it was carried here from another place by meteoroids or space dust. What is clear though, is that the elements that make up the complex organic molecules present in all life on our planet (and that are found throughout our solar system) must have come from somewhere out in space. This is the grand cosmic connection: the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood, the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in our DNA were all forged in the belly of a star eons ago.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account
The precious metals that humans have mined for thousands of years and that have laid the foundation for the earliest civilizations were produced in the devastating deaths of massive stars or perhaps the cataclysmic collisions of stellar carcasses ages ago. Humans, and all other life forms on earth, are intrinsically connected to distant reaches of space and time, despite being essentially stranded on a small rock orbiting an ordinary solitary star in some forgotten corner of the galaxy.
Our entire planet, everything we ever built, and even our physical bodies, bear the imprints of cosmic events so immense in scale and awesome in significance that they are almost impossible to fathom, even for people who spend their entire lives studying them. It is easy to think of yourself as insignificant or irrelevant in the vast ocean of space and time, but we are literally made of starstuff. We are the children of the cosmos, and in a way, we all come from outer space. And much like Carl Sagan declared decades ago, we are the cosmos knowing itself.
The mere action of you reading this article and pondering our origins in the cosmos is an example of the universe learning about itself. There is nothing insignificant about that.
Farhanul Hasan is a fourth year PhD student in the astronomy department at New Mexico State University, working on galaxy evolution and galaxy ecosystems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note from Kilroy–contrary to the title of the book quoted, I have fond memories of my teachers, who worked for little and were themselves enslaved by the edicts of the state board of education–in my case the State of Missouri–which selected the textbooks used in all schools in the state which, as the following points out, were permeated by myths and mis-information typical of the age)
excerpted from the book
Lies My Teacher Told Me
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
by James W. Loewen
Touchstone Books, 1995, paper
What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors.
W E B Du Bois
[American] history … paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.
Teachers have held up Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who overcame her physical handicaps, as an inspiration to generations of schoolchildren. Every fifth-grader knows the scene in which Anne Sullivan spells water into young Helen’s hand at the pump. At least a dozen movies and filmstrips have been made on Keller’s life. Each yields its version of the same cliché. A McGraw-Hill educational film concludes: “The gift of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the world is to constantly remind us of the wonder of the world around us and how much we owe those who taught us what it means, for there is no person that is unworthy or incapable of being helped, and the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true potential.”
To draw such a bland maxim from the life of Helen Keller, historians and filmmakers have disregarded her actual biography and left out the lessons she specifically asked us to learn from it. Keller, who struggled so valiantly to learn to speak, has been made mute by history. The result
… Keller, who was born in 1880, graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 and died in 1968. To ignore the sixty-four years of her adult life or to encapsulate them with the single word humanitarian is to lie by omission.
The truth is that Helen Keller was a radical socialist. She joined the Socialist party of Massachusetts in 1909. She had become a social radical even before she graduated from Radcliffe, and not, she emphasized, because of any teachings available there. After the Russian Revolution, she sang the praises of the new communist nation: “In the East a new star is risen! With pain and anguish the old order has given birth to the new, and behold in the East a man-child is born! Onward, comrades, all together! Onward to the campfires of Russia! Onward to the coming dawn!” ~ Keller hung a red flag over the desk in her study. Gradually she moved to the left of the Socialist party and became a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson.
At the time Keller became a socialist, she was one of the most famous women on the planet. She soon became the most notorious. Her conversion to socialism caused a new storm of publicity-this time outraged. Newspapers that had extolled her courage and intelligence now emphasized her handicap. Columnists charged that she had no independent sensory input and was in thrall to those who fed her information. Typical was the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle> who wrote that Keller’s “mistakes spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.”
Keller recalled having met this editor: “At that time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him.” She went on, “Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.” 8
Keller, who devoted much of her later life to raising funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, never wavered in her belief that our society needed radical change. Having herself fought so hard to speak, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union to fight for the free speech of others. She sent $100 to the NAACP with a letter of support that appeared in its magazine The Crisis-a radical act for a white person from Alabama in the 1920s. She supported Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate, in each of his campaigns for the presidency. She composed essays on the women’s movement, on politics, on economics. Near the end of her life, she wrote to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, leader of the American Communist party, who was then languishing in jail, a victim of the McCarthy era: “Loving birthday greetings, dear Elizabeth Flynn! May the sense of serving mankind bring strength and peace into your brave heart!”
One may not agree with Helen Keller’s positions. Her praise of the USSR now seems naive, embarrassing, to some even treasonous. But she was a radical-a fact few Americans know, because our schooling and our mass media left it out.
Under [President Woodrow] Wilson, the United States intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in our history. We landed troops in Mexico in 1914, Haiti in 1915, the Dominican Republic in 1916, Mexico again in 1916 (and nine more times before the end of Wilson’s presidency), Cuba in 1917, and Panama in 1918. Throughout his administration Wilson maintained forces in Nicaragua, using them to determine Nicaragua’s president and to force passage of a treaty preferential to the United States.
In 1917 Woodrow Wilson took on a major power when he started sending secret monetary aid to the “White” side of the Russian civil war. In the summer of 1918 he authorized a naval blockade of the Soviet Union and sent expeditionary forces to Murmansk, Archangel, and Vladivostok to help overthrow the Russian Revolution. With the blessing of Britain and France, and in a joint command with Japanese soldiers, American forces penetrated westward from Vladivostok to Lake Baikal, supporting Czech and White Russian forces that had declared an anticommunist government headquartered at Omsk. After briefly maintaining front lines as far west as the Volga, the White Russian forces disintegrated by the end of 1919, and our troops finally left Vladivostok on April 1, 1920.~’
Few Americans who were not alive at the time know anything about our “unknown war with Russia,” to quote the title of Robert Maddox’s book on this fiasco. Not one of the twelve American history textbooks in my sample even mentions it. Russian history textbooks, on the other hand, give the episode considerable coverage. According to Maddox: “The immediate effect of the intervention was to prolong a bloody civil war, thereby costing thousands of additional lives and wreaking enormous destruction on an already battered society. And there were longer-range implications. Bolshevik leaders had clear proof . . . that the Western powers meant to destroy the Soviet government if given the chance.”
This aggression fueled the suspicions that motivated the Soviets during the Cold War, and until its breakup the Soviet Union continued to claim damages for the invasion.
Wilson’s invasions of Latin America are better known than his Russian adventure. Textbooks do cover some of them, and it is fascinating to watch textbook authors attempt to justify these episodes. Any accurate portrayal of the invasions could not possibly show Wilson or the United States in a favorable light. With hindsight we know that Wilson’s interventions in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua set the stage for the dictators Batista, Trujillo, the Duvaliers, and the Somozas, whose legacies still reverberate. Even in the 1910s, most of the invasions were unpopular in this country and provoked a torrent of j criticism abroad.
After U.S. marines invaded [Haiti] country in 1915, they forced the Haitian legislature to select our preferred candidate as president. When Haiti refused to declare war on Germany after the United States did, we dissolved the Haitian legislature. Then the United States supervised a pseudo-referendum to approve a new Haitian constitution, less democratic than the constitution it replaced; the referendum passed by a hilarious 98,225 to 768. As Piero Gleijesus has noted, “It is not that Wilson failed in his earnest efforts to bring democracy to these little countries. He never tried. He intervened to impose hegemony, not democracy.” The United States also attacked Haiti’s proud tradition of individual ownership of small tracts of land, which dated back to the Haitian Revolution, in favor of the establishment of large plantations. American troops forced peasants in shackles to work on road construction crews. In 1919 Haitian citizens rose up and resisted U.S. occupation troops in a guerrilla war that cost more than 3,000 lives, most of them Haitian. Students who read Triumph of the American Nation learn this about Wilson’s intervention in Haiti: “Neither the treaty nor the continued presence of American troops restored order completely. During the next four or five years, nearly 2,000 Haitians were killed in riots and other outbreaks of violence.” This passive construction veils the circumstances about which George Barnett, a U.S. marine general, complained to his commander in Haiti: “Practically indiscriminate killing of natives has gone on for some time.” Barnett termed this violent episode “the most startling thing of its kind that has ever taken place in the Marine Corps.”
During the first two decades of this century, the United States effectively made colonies of Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and several other countries. Wilson’s reaction to the Russian Revolution solidified the alignment of the United States with Europe’s colonial powers. His was the first administration to be obsessed with the specter of communism, abroad and at home. Wilson was blunt about it. In Billings, Montana, stumping the West to seek support for the League of Nations, he warned, “There are apostles of Lenin in our own midst. I can not imagine what it means to be an apostle of Lenin. It means to be an apostle of the night, of chaos, of disorder.” Even after the White Russian alternative collapsed, Wilson refused to extend diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union. He participated in barring Russia from the peace negotiations after World War I and helped oust Bela Kun, the communist leader who had risen to power in Hungary. Wilson’s sentiment for self-determination and democracy never had a chance against his three bedrock “ism”s: colonialism, racism, and anticommunism. A young Ho Chi Minh appealed to Woodrow Wilson at Versailles for self-determination for Vietnam, but Ho had all three strikes against him. Wilson refused to listen, and France retained control of Indochina. It seems that Wilson regarded self-determination as all right for, say, Belgium, but not for the likes of Latin America or Southeast Asia.
At home, Wilson’s racial policies disgraced the office he held. His Republican predecessors had routinely appointed blacks to important offices, including those of port collector for New Orleans and the District of Columbia and register of the treasury. Presidents sometimes appointed African Americans as postmasters, particularly in southern towns with large black populations. African Americans took part in the Republican Party’s national conventions and enjoyed some access to the White House. Woodrow Wilson, for whom many African Americans voted in 1912, changed all that. A southerner, Wilson n had been president of Princeton, the only major northern university that refused to admit blacks. He was an outspoken white supremacist-his wife was even worse-and told “darky” stories in cabinet meetings. His administration submitted a legislative program intended to curtail the civil rights of African Americans, but Congress would not pass it. Unfazed, Wilson used his power as chief executive to segregate the federal government. He appointed southern whites to offices traditionally reserved for blacks. Wilson personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations. The one occasion on which Wilson met with African American leaders in the White House ended in a fiasco as the president virtually threw the visitors out of his office. Wilson’s legacy was extensive: he effectively closed the Democratic Party to African Americans for another two decades, and parts of the federal government remained segregated into the 1950s and beyond. In 1916 the Colored Advisory Committee of the Republican National Committee issued a statement on Wilson that, though partisan, was accurate: “No sooner had the Democratic Administration come into power than Mr. Wilson and his advisors entered upon a policy to eliminate all colored citizens from representation in the Federal Government.”
Omitting or absolving Wilson’s racism goes beyond concealing a character blemish. It is overtly racist. No black person could ever consider Woodrow Wilson a hero. Textbooks that present him as a hero are written from a white perspective. The cover-up denies all students the chance to learn something important about the interrelationship between the leader and the led. White Americans engaged in a new burst of racial violence during and immediately after Wilson’s presidency. The tone set by the administration was one cause. Another was the release of America’s first epic motion picture.
The filmmaker David W. Griffith quoted Wilson’s two-volume history of the United States, now notorious for its racist view of Reconstruction, in his infamous masterpiece The Clansman, a paean to the Ku Klux Klan for its role in putting down “black-dominated” Republican state governments during Reconstruction. Griffith based the movie on a book by Wilson’s former classmate, Thomas Dixon, whose obsession with race was “unrivaled until Mein Kampf” At a private White House showing, Wilson saw the movie, now retitled Birth of a Nation, and returned Griffith’s compliment: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so true.” Griffith would go on to use this quotation in successfully defending his film against NAACP charges that it was racially inflammatory.
This landmark of American cinema was not only the best technical production of its time but also probably the most racist major movie of all time. Dixon intended “to revolutionize northern sentiment by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience into a good Democrat! . . . And make no mistake about it-we are doing just that. Dixon did not overstate by much. Spurred by Birth of a Nation, William Simmons of Georgia reestablished the Ku Klux Klan. The racism seeping down from the White House encouraged this Klan, distinguishing it from its Reconstruction predecessor, which President Grant had succeeded in virtually eliminating in one state (South Carolina) and discouraging nationally for a time. The new KKK quickly became a national phenomenon. It grew to dominate the Democratic Party in many southern states, as well as in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon. During Wilson’s second term, a wave of antiblack race riots swept the country. Whites Iynched blacks as far north as Duluth.
Wilson displayed little regard for the rights of anyone whose opinions differed from his own. But textbooks take pains to insulate him from wrongdoing. “Congress,” not Wilson, is credited with having passed the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of the following year, probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. In fact, Wilson tried to strengthen the Espionage Act with a provision giving broad censorship powers directly to the president. Moreover, with Wilson’s approval, his postmaster general used his new censorship powers to suppress all mail that was socialist, anti-British, pro-Irish, or that in any other way might, in his view, have threatened the war effort. Robert Goldstein served ten years in prison for producing The Spirit of ’76, a film about the Revolutionary War that depicted the British, who were now our allies, unfavorably. Textbook authors suggest that wartime pressures excuse Wilson’s suppression of civil liberties, but in 1920, when World War I was long over, Wilson vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Espionage and Sedition acts. Textbook authors blame the anticommunist and anti-labor union witch hunts of Wilson’s second term on his illness and on an attorney general run amok. No evidence supports this view. Indeed, Attorney General Palmer asked Wilson in his last days as president to pardon Eugene V. Debs, who was serving time for a speech attributing World War I to economic interests and denouncing the Espionage Act as undemocratic. The president replied, “Never!” and Debs languished in prison until Warren Harding pardoned him. The American Way adopts perhaps the most innovative approach to absolving Wilson of wrongdoing: Way simply moves the “red scare” to the 1920s, after Wilson had left office!
Because heroification prevents textbooks from showing Wilson’s shortcomings, textbooks are hard pressed to explain the results of the 1920 election. James Cox, the Democratic candidate who was Wilson’s would-be successor, was crushed by the nonentity Warren G. Harding, who never even campaigned. In the biggest landslide in the history of American presidential politics, Harding got almost 64 percent of the major-party votes. The people were “tired,” textbooks suggest, and just wanted a “return to normalcy.” The possibility that the electorate knew what it was doing in rejecting Wilson never occurs to our authors. It occurred to Helen Keller, however. She called Wilson “the greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known!”
Bartolome de las Casas
What we committed in the Indies stands out among the most unpardonable offenses ever committed against God and mankind and this trade [in Indian slaves] as one of the most unjust, evil, and cruel among them.
Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass.
Columbus’s initial impression of the Arawaks, who inhabited most of the islands in the Caribbean, was quite favorable. He wrote in his journal on October 13, 1492: “At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, and very handsome. Their hair was not curly but loose and coarse like horse-hair. All have foreheads much broader than any people I had hitherto seen. Their eyes are large and very beautiful. They are not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries.” (This reference to the Canaries was ominous, for Spain was then in the process of exterminating the aboriginal people of those islands.) Columbus went on to describe the Arawaks’ canoes, “some large enough to contain 40 or 45 men.” Finally, he got down to business: “I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold. Seeing some of them with little bits of metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the island in that direction, there would be found a king who possessed great cups full of gold.” At dawn the next day, Columbus sailed to the other side of the island, probably one of the Bahamas, and saw two or three villages. He ended his description of them with these menacing words: “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.”
On his first voyage, Columbus kidnapped some ten to twenty-five Indians and took them back with him to Spain. Only seven or eight of the Indians arrived alive, but along with the parrots, gold trinkets, and other exotica, they caused quite a stir in Seville. Ferdinand and Isabella provided Columbus with seventeen ships, 1,200 to 1,500 men, cannons, crossbows, guns, cavalry, and attack dogs for a second voyage.
One way to visualize what happened next is with the help of the famous science fiction story War of the Worlds. H. G. Wells intended his tale of earthlings’ encounter with technologically advanced aliens as an allegory. His frightened British commoners (New Jerseyites in Orson Welles’s radio adaptation) were analogous to the “primitive” peoples of the Canaries or America, and his terrifying aliens represented the technologically advanced Europeans. As we identify with the helpless earthlings, Wells wanted us also to sympathize with the natives on Haiti in 1493, or on Australia in 1788, or in the upper Amazon jungle in the 1990s.
When Columbus and his men returned to Haiti in 1493, they demanded food, gold, spun cotton-whatever the Indians had that they wanted, including sex with their women. To ensure cooperation, Columbus used punishment by example. When an Indian committed even a minor offense, the Spanish cut off his ears or nose. Disfigured, the person was sent back to his village as living evidence of the brutality the Spaniards were capable of.
After a while, the Indians had had enough. At first their resistance was mostly passive. They refused to plant food for the Spanish to take. They abandoned towns near the Spanish settlements. Finally, the Arawaks fought back. Their sticks and stones were no more effective against the armed and clothed Spanish, however, than the earthlings’ rifles against the aliens’ death rays in War of the Worlds.
The attempts at resistance gave Columbus an excuse to make war. On March 24, 1495, he set out to conquer the Arawaks. Bartolome de Las Casas described the force Columbus assembled to put down the rebellion. “Since the Admiral perceived that daily the people of the land were taking up arms, ridiculous weapons in reality . . . he hastened to proceed to the country and disperse and subdue, by force of arms, the people of the entire island . . . For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart.” Naturally, the Spanish won. According to Kirkpatrick Sale, who quotes Ferdinand Columbus’s biography of his father: “The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and ‘with God’s aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed.’ “
Having as yet found no fields of gold, Columbus had to return some kind of dividend to Spain. In 1495 the Spanish on Haiti initiated a great slave raid. They rounded up 1,500 Arawaks, then selected the 500 best specimens (of whom 200 would die en route to Spain). Another 500 were chosen as slaves for the Spaniards staying on the island. The rest were released. A Spanish eyewitness described the event: “Among them were many women who had infants at the breast. They, in order the better to escape us, since they were afraid we would turn to catch them again, left their infants anywhere on the ground and started to flee like desperate people; and some fled so far that they were removed from our settlement of Isabela seven or eight days beyond mountains and across huge rivers; wherefore from now on scarcely any will be had.” Columbus was excited. “In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil-wood which could be sold,” he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1496. “In Castile, Portugal, Aragon,.. . and the Canary Islands they need many slaves, and I do not think they get enough from Guinea.” He viewed the Indian death rate optimistically: “Although they die now, they will not always die. The Negroes and Canary Islanders died at first.”
In the words of Hans Koning, “There now began a reign of terror in Hispaniola.” Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system. Ferdinand Columbus described how it worked: “[The Indians] all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 years of age or upward was to pay a large hawk’s bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished.” With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time would be devoted to collecting more gold. Columbus’s son neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands.
All of these gruesome facts are available in primary source material- letters by Columbus and by other members of his expeditions-and in the work of Las Casas, the first great historian of the Americas, who relied on primary materials and helped preserve them. I have quoted a few primary sources in this chapter. Most textbooks make no use of primary sources. A few incorporate brief extracts that have been carefully selected or edited to reveal nothing unseemly about the Great Navigator.
The tribute system eventually broke down because what it demanded was impossible. To replace it, Columbus installed the encomienda system, in which he granted or “commended” entire Indian villages to individual colonists or groups of colonists. Since it was not called slavery, this forced-labor system escaped the moral censure that slavery received. Following Columbus’s example, Spain made the encomienda system official policy on Haiti in 1502; other conquistadors subsequently introduced it to Mexico, Peru, and Florida.
The tribute and encomienda systems caused incredible depopulation. On Haiti the colonists made the Indians mine gold for them, raise Spanish food, and even carry them everywhere they went. The Indians couldn’t stand it. Pedro de Cordoba wrote in a letter to King Ferdinand in 1517, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth . . . Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”
Beyond acts of individual cruelty, the Spanish disrupted the Indian ecosystem and culture. Forcing Indians to work in mines rather than in their gardens led to widespread malnutrition. The intrusion of rabbits and livestock caused further ecological disaster. Diseases new to the Indians played a role, although smallpox, usually the big killer, did not appear on the island until after 1516. Some of the Indians tried fleeing to Cuba, but the Spanish soon followed them there. Estimates of Haiti’s pre-Columbian population range as high as 8,000,000 people. When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain, he left his brother Bartholomew in charge of the island. Bartholomew took a census of Indian adults in 1496 and came up with 1,100,000. The Spanish did not count children under fourteen and could not count Arawaks who had escaped into the mountains. Kirkpatrick Sale estimates that a more accurate total would probably be in the neighborhood of 3,000,000. “By 1516,” according to Benjamin Keen, “thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained.” Las Casas tells us that fewer than 200 Indians were alive in 1542. By 1555, they were all gone.
Thus nasty details like cutting off hands have somewhat greater historical importance than nice touches like “Tierra!” Haiti under the Spanish is one of the primary instances of genocide in all human history. Yet only one of the twelve textbooks, The American Pageant, mentions the extermination. None mentions Columbus’s role in it.
Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves-about five thousand-than any other individual. To her credit, Queen Isabella opposed outright enslavement and returned some Indians to the Caribbean. But other nations rushed to emulate Columbus. In 1501 the Portuguese began to depopulate Labrador, transporting the now extinct Beothuk Indians to Europe and Cape Verde as slaves. After the British established beachheads on the Atlantic coast of North America, they encouraged coastal Indian tribes to capture and sell members of more distant tribes. Charleston, South Carolina, became a major port for exporting Indian slaves. The Pilgrims and Puritans sold the survivors of the Pequot War into slavery in Bermuda in 1637. The French shipped virtually the entire Natchez nation in chains to the West Indies in 1731
A particularly repellent aspect of the slave trade was sexual. As soon as the 1493 expedition got to the Caribbean, before it even reached Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spaniards enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”
The slave trade destroyed whole Indian nations. Enslaved Indians died. To replace the dying Haitians, the Spanish imported tens of thousands more Indians from the Bahamas, which “are now deserted,” in the words of the Spanish historian Peter Martyr, reporting in 1516. Packed in below deck, with hatchways closed to prevent their escape, so many slaves died on the trip that “a ship without a compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.” Puerto Rico and Cuba were next.
Because the Indians died, Indian slavery then led to the massive slave trade the other way across the Atlantic, from Africa. This trade also began on Haiti, initiated by Columbus’s son in 1505. Predictably, Haiti then became the site of the first large-scale slave revolt, when blacks and Indians banded together in 1519. The uprising lasted more than a decade and was finally brought to an end by the Spanish in the 1530s.
Of the twelve textbooks, only six mention that the Spanish enslaved or exploited the Indians anywhere in the Americas. Of these only four verge on mentioning that Columbus was involved. The United States- A History of the Republic places the following passage about the fate of the Indians under the heading “The Fate of Columbus”: “Some Spaniards who had come to the Americas had begun to enslave and kill the original Americans. Authorities in Spain held Columbus responsible for the atrocities.” Note that A History takes pains to isolate Columbus from the enslavement charge-others were misbehaving. Life and Liberty implies that Columbus might have participated: “Slavery began in the New World almost as soon as Columbus got off the boat.” Only The American Adventure clearly associates Columbus with slavery. American History levels a vague charge: “Columbus was a great sailor and a brave and determined man. But he was not good at politics or business.” That’s it. The other books simply adore him.
As Kirkpatrick Sale poetically sums up, Columbus’s “second voyage marks the first extended encounter of European and Indian societies, the clash of cultures that was to echo down through five centuries.” The seeds of that five-century battle were sown in Haiti between 1493 and 1500. These are not mere details that our textbooks omit. They are facts crucial to understanding American and European history. Capt. John Smith, for example, used Columbus as a role model in proposing a get-tough policy for the Virginia Indians in 1624: “The manner how to suppress them is so often related and approved, I omit it here: And you have twenty examples of the Spaniards how they got the West Indies, and forced the treacherous and rebellious infidels to do all manner of drudgery work and slavery for them, themselves living like soldiers upon the fruits of their labors.” 70 The methods unleashed by Columbus are, in fact, the larger part of his legacy. After all, they worked. The island was so well pacified that Spanish convicts, given a second chance on Haiti, could “go anywhere, take any woman or girl, take anything, and have the Indians carry him on their backs as if they were mules.” In 1499, when Columbus finally found gold on Haiti in significant amounts, Spain became the envy of Europe. After 1500 Portugal, France, Holland, and Britain joined in conquering the Americas. These nations were at least as brutal as Spain. The British, for example, unlike the Spanish, did not colonize by making use of Indian labor but simply forced the Indians out of the way. Many Indians fled British colonies to ,, Spanish territories (Florida, Mexico) in search of more humane treatment.
Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. This is the other half of the vast process historians now call the Columbian exchange. Crops, animals, ideas, and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, “Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism.” After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as “damned infidels,” Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517.
Politically, nations like the Arawaks-without monarchs, without much hierarchy-stunned Europeans. In 1516 Thomas More’s Utopia, based on an account of the Incan empire in Peru, challenged European social organization by suggesting a radically different and superior alternative. Other social philosophers seized upon the Indians as living examples of Europe’s primordial past, which is what John Locke meant by the phrase “In the beginning, all the world was America.” Depending upon their political persuasion, some Europeans glorified Indian nations as examples of simpler, better societies, from which European civilization had devolved, while others maligned the Indian societies as primitive and underdeveloped. In either case, from Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau down to Marx and Engels, European philosophers’ concepts of the good society were transformed by ideas from America.
America fascinated the masses as well as the elite. In The Tempest, Shakespeare noted this universal curiosity: “They will not give a doit to relieve a lambe beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.” Europe’s fascination with the Americas was directly responsible, in fact, for a rise in European self-consciousness. From the beginning America was perceived as an “opposite” to Europe in ways that even Africa never had been. In a sense, there was no “Europe” before 1492. People were simply Tuscan, French, and the like. Now Europeans began to see similarities among themselves, at least as contrasted with Native Americans. For that matter, there were no “white” people in Europe before 1492. With the transatlantic slave trade, first Indian, then African, Europeans increasingly saw “white” as a race and race as an important human characteristic.
Columbus’s own writings reflect this increasing racism. When Columbus was selling Queen Isabella on the wonders of the Americas, the Indians were “well built” and “of quick intelligence.” “They have very good customs,” he wrote, “and the king maintains a very marvelous state, of a style so orderly that it is a pleasure to see it, and they have good memories and they wish to see everything and ask what it is and for what it is used.” Later, when Columbus was justifying his wars and his enslavement of the Indians, they became “cruel” and “stupid,” “a people warlike and numerous, whose customs and religion are very different from ours.”
It is always useful to think badly about people one has exploited or plans to exploit. Modifying one’s opinions to bring them into line with one’s actions or planned actions is the most common outcome of the process known as “cognitive dissonance,” according to the social psychologist Leon Festinger. No one likes to think of himself or herself as a bad person. To treat badly another person whom we consider a reasonable human being creates a tension between act and attitude that demands resolution. We cannot erase what we have done, and to alter our future behavior may not be in our interest. To change our attitude is easier.
Columbus gives us the first recorded example of cognitive dissonance in the Americas, for although the Indians may have changed from hospitable to angry, they could hardly have evolved from intelligent to stupid so quickly. The change had to be in Columbus.
A Private History of a Public City
Launch And Landing Sites Of The First V-2 On London
I was in the Hague for my last post, and before leaving I wanted to visit a site in a suburb of the Hague that has a very direct and tragic connection with London.
London had been under fire from V-1 flying bombs starting in June 1944 until October 1944 when the launch sites were captured as the allied forces progressed through France and Belgium.
In September 1944 a new weapon was first used against London. This was the V-2 rocket which had a much more flexible launch method than the V-1 and also longer range so launching against London was possible from the areas still held by German forces.
Although Allied forces were pressing up from the Belgium border, through Eindhoven and Nijmegen, the coastal west of the Netherlands was still under German control and the area around the Hague offered the ideal location to launch against London. The Hague had the rail connections to bring in the rockets and their fuel, and the suburbs of the Hague offered a large wooded area, crisscrossed by small roads which provided the perfect cover for mobile launches.
The V-2 was a highly sophisticated weapon. The supporting infrastructure allowed the rocket to be launched from a mobile launcher with fueling carried out on site along with final setting of the gyros that would guide the rocket to its destination. The speed of the rocket meant that it was almost impossible to destroy whilst in flight. The trajectory for the rocket was a parabola from the launch site up to the edge of space before descending at up to three times the speed of sound to the weapon’s target.
The following photo shows a V-2 rocket on a launch platform. Most photos of the V-2 show the black and white painted rocket, these were the test versions and the painted colour scheme ensured that any rotation of the rocket could be identified during flight. In use, the rockets did not have a colour scheme.
Wassenaar is a suburb of the Hague, located to the north east of the city. It is a wooded area with small roads crossing the area, concealed under trees which also line the roads. Wassenaar was one of the main launch sites for V-2s and the first rockets against London were launched from Wassenaar’s roads.
Before leaving the Hague, I wanted to find the location of the first V-2 launch against London, so headed out on the short drive to Wassenaar.
The following map shows the city of the Hague. Follow the orange road (the N44) that runs from the Hague to the north east and you will find Wassenaar.
The following map extract shows Wassenaar in detail. The first launches against London took place on the evening of the 8th September 1944. There were two simultaneous launches at two different road junctions. These were ideal locations as road junctions offered a larger space for the rocket launcher and supporting vehicles as the rocket was fueled onsite. The map also shows the wooded nature of the site and that these were side roads – good concealment for the time needed to prepare and launch.
(The above two maps are “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).
At around 6:35 pm on the evening of the 8th September 1944, the residents of Wassenaar heard a loud roaring noise and saw two objects rising above the trees, slowly at first before quickly gathering speed, then rushing skyward.
One was from the junction of three roads shown as point 1 in the above map. This is the junction of Lijsterlaan, Konijnenlaan and Koekoekslaan. This is the view of the junction as I walked up to the site:
Looking down one of the roads leading of from the junction shows the narrowness of the roads and the tree cover. It has not changed that much since the rockets were being launched here and shows how good the area was for concealment.
The original V-1 had to be launched from a fixed launching ramp. As well as the technological development of the rocket, other innovations with the V-2 were mobility where the complete system comprising a mobile launcher, fuel tankers (including liquid oxygen), launch and control system could drive up to a new location and launch within about two hours.
The following illustration shows a V-2 rocket in launch position on its mobile transport and launch platform:
The following photo shows a V-2 just after the initial launch. Two of these being launched almost simultaneously from the wooded side roads of Wassenaar must have been a frightening sight for the local residents.
This part of Wassenaar is occupied by large houses and grounds. Reports from immediately after the launch tell of the road surface been scorched and melted, with trees being burnt for a few feet above ground level where flame from the rockets engines must have bounced of the road and been deflected onto the adjacent trees.
On the next day, the 9th September, the RAF started bombing Wassenaar. A cat and mouse game ensued with rockets, fuel and launch equipment being stored across the area and mobile launches taking place on a regular basis, and the RAF trying to locate and bomb any V-2 related infrastructure that could be found.
Another view of the road junction.
If you look at the patch of grass on the right, there is a white painted stone. Look to the upper right of the white stone, and just to the left of the tree is a small, wooden pillar.
The pillar records the junction as being the site of the first launch of a V-2 rocket on the 8th September 1944:
Soon after returning from the Netherlands, and on the 8th September 2018, I visited the site where the V-2 launched from Wassenaar landed – in Staveley Road, Chiswick where another pillar can be found recording that the first V-2 fell here. It had taken the rocket around 5 minutes to get from Wassenaar to Chiswick.
The view looking along the street from in front of the memorial pillar:
The memorial pillar is in front of a small electrical substation:
To the right of the pillar, mounted on the fence is an information panel which was unveiled by the Battlefields Trust and the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society, on the same day that the pillar in Wassenaar was also unveiled.
The V-2 on Chiswick resulted in three deaths. Three year old Rosemary Clarke who lived at number 1 Staveley Road, Ada Harrison aged 68 of 3 Staveley Road and Sapper Bernard Browning, who was on leave, and on his way to Chiswick Station.
Destruction was considerable. The V-2 blew a crater 30 ft wide and 8 ft deep at the point of impact. The following panoramic photo from the Imperial War Museum archive shows the damage that a V-2 could inflict.
There was a second V-2 rocket launched at the same time, a very short distance from the location described above. This V-2 was launched from the point marked 2 in the map, at the junction of Lijsterlaan and Schouwweg. This V-2 would land minutes later at Parndon Wood, near Epping. Due to the rural nature of this location there were no casualties.
The following photo shows the junction from where this second V-2 was launched:
From the 8th September onward, there was a continuous series of V-2 launches from Wassenaar and the Hague. The area was also used for storage of rockets and fuel, launching equipment and the German forces and command structure that would launch the rockets were also housed in the surroundings of Wassenaar and the Hague.
Allied planes flew many missions over the area trying to locate and destroy V-2 infrastructure. On the 3rd March 1945 a large force of bombers mounted an attack on the forested regions of the Hague, but due to navigation errors many of the bombs fell on the Bezuidenhout suburb resulting in a large loss of life in the Dutch population.
The Dutch population also suffered when rockets misfired, and also the disruption and treatment they suffered from living in and around a place that was used to store, transport, prepare and launch such an intensive rocket programme.
One of the locations where V-2 rockets were checked and prepared was the tram depot in Scheveningen, the coastal suburb of the Hague.
This is the view of the tram depot today:
There are historical posters around the streets commemorating the 200th anniversary of Scheveingen as a seaside resort. One of these posters shows the state of the tram depot in 1945:
The text states that after the liberation, it took some time for trams from the Hofplein line to return to Scheveningen-Kurhaus station and that the tram connection was finally reestablished in 1953.
On the 27th March 1945 the last V-2 was launched against London. It fell on Orpington in Kent resulting in the deaths of 23 people. Whilst the west of the Netherlands was still occupied, rail connection with the rest of Germany had been cut and the German rocket forces had already been withdrawn from the Hague in order to avoid capture of the personnel and their equipment.
From the first V-2 on the 8th of September to the last on the 27th March, a total of 3172 V-2 rockets were launched. Of these around 1358 fell on the greater London area.
London did not suffer as badly as Antwerp, An important port for the Allied forces allowing supplies to be delivered into Belgium rather than the French ports further south, around 1610 V-2 rockets were launched against Antwerp.
Other rockets landed in France, Maastricht in Holland and even in Remagen, Germany where the use of rockets were an attempt to try and disrupt US forces by targeting the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine. This was the first time that rockets had been used to attack a very specific target. Eleven rockets were fired at the bridge, however none hit their target, but American soldiers and German civilians were killed.
The V-2 campaign against London killed more than 6,000 people.
The rockets were constructed by slave labour and many tens of thousands died due to the appalling conditions in which they were held and laboured.
The impact of the V-1 and V-2 weapons was considerable on those forced to build them, the areas where they were launched and their targets.
Two pillars in two countries, roughly 205 miles apart provide a reminder of the devastation that these weapons would cause.
13 thoughts on “Launch And Landing Sites Of The First V-2 On London”
- Mike Kaythis is really fascinating research. Very interesting diversion – and fascinating to see the old photos of The Netherlands.Reply ↓
- Paul in GlasgowExcellent research and a fascinating story. Thanks.Reply ↓
- Vic FlinthamMany thanks for this. I wonder how many people realise that for the Dutch resistance Scheveningen was a shibboleth to identify German infiltrators? Also, I have understood that Sheringham in Norfolk is derived from Scheveningen named by Dutch fen drainers.Reply ↓
- Caroline Greenwellfascinating
I’m going with my daughter and granddaughter to Duinrell holiday park next month – will put a different perspective on the place thinking of V2 rockets.Reply ↓
- Dennis R. HallExcellent document. Professional. Even better, yes even better. Prompts our minds never to forget
the poor souls whose very dear lives were sacrificed. The simple heart would cry out but in vain if only the gyros had been set by mistake or by intention to the damned lair where the hideous being who was the cause of all such misery lay.Reply ↓
- Edward RutherfoordVery interesting post.
If you search “chiswick V2” on Alamy.com you will see a number of detailed photographs of the Staveley Road explosion. My mother lived in Staveley Road a few doors away and often told of the event. How they had to remove body parts from their garden. And how it was initially reported as a gas explosion (part propaganda and partly because it was the first V2 on London and nobody was sure what had happened).Reply ↓
- David CooperThank you for this reminder on how cruel and devastating war can beReply ↓
- MickFascinating stuff, especially for someone born in London, interested in WWII history, living in the Netherlands, working close to Wassenaar on occation, with a daughter working in Antwerp. You got all the angles covered there 🙂Reply ↓
- Kevin KitsonThanks so much for this very interesting item, helping to keep alive just what it meant to have lived through those times. I will now be researching the Chiswick link.Reply ↓
- ColinIn 1944 my (future) father, at age 15, was blown up by a V1. Scarred his left cheek and shattered one of his legs. He was in hospital for weeks and then had to wear calipers for about a year. When they came off his first question was if he could play football. “No” said the doctor, “your leg is too weak. You need physical therapy”. Well that apparently got my future grandmother going because she was worried about the cost. “So what kind of therapy?” she asked. “Ballroom dancing would be perfect” replied the doctor.
So ballroom dancing it was. Happy ending…young ladies do take a shine to young men that can dance which is how may parents met when doing their National Service in the RAF in 1948.Oh, and one story from the hospital period. My dad was in a ward with injured servicemen. Every Friday a local publican sent them a crate of ale (the ward sister was like Sgt Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes…”I see nothing. Nothing!”) One period there was a German POW in the ward. He’d been doing farm work, fallen off a truck and broke an arm so that was in a cast. (The men used to get him to demonstrate the goose-step; that did annoy the ward sister). The first time the ale arrived after the POW had, the sergeant offered the German a bottle. “But sarge” came a voice, “he’s the enemy”.
“In here my lad he’s a wounded soldier. One of us. He gets to drink too.”Reply ↓
- Kathryn WolstencroftVery, very interesting, My Paternal forebears came from the East End/Isle of Dogs and gravitated to Chiswick and then to Brentford. I recall my Aunt telling me about the war when I was about 8/9/10 years old. Seemingly The Great West Road was hit. One Saturday morning she said she’d just freshen up the contents of a box which held my Grandmother’s Wedding China. I couldn’t think how this ‘sugar’ had got so stuck in this cup! Alas it wasn’t what I’d assumed ….something called shrapnel !Reply ↓
- Denis SharpThe other one of the pair you have written about fell near Epping Essex at the same time as the Chiswick one, some say a split second before making the Epping V2 the first to fall on the UK. The water filled crater still exists today deep in a secluded prohibited nature reserve at Parndon, now in the new town of Harlow .
I have photos and a partial copy of newspaper clipping you can have if you are still interested.Reply ↓
- Craig BeyersI just finished the book “V2” by Robert Harris (ISBN 978-0-525-65671-5, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2020). This fiction book broadly describes the Scheveningen area as the V2 launch sites and a UK Army facility in Mechelen that computed the trajectory of V2 launches to identify the launch site. Using this article and Google maps, I was able to locate the two intersections. I appreciate the photos, maps, and descriptions. Thanks. ↓
How Anthony Comstock, Enemy to Women of the Gilded Age, Attempted to Ban Contraception
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Man with a Vaginal Douche Named After Him
By Amy Sohn
Speech is a form of power. My new book, The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, & Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age, chronicles eight women “sex radicals” who went up against the restrictive 19th-century federal Comstock law—named after the obscenity fighter Anthony Comstock—which criminalized the mailing and selling of contraceptives with harsh sentences and steep fines.
Dr. Sara Blakeslee Chase was a little known sex radical who was trained in homeopathic medicine and touted the benefits of voluntary motherhood, or small families. After her lectures she often sold contraceptive syringes. Vaginal syringes were commonly used by Victorian-era women, who filled them with substances ranging from acids to water, and douched with them after sex to reduce the chance of pregnancy. They could also be used to try to end pregnancies, with some doctors even recommending them for this purpose. They were still available even after the Comstock law’s passage because they were cheap, easy to find, and not explicitly contraception—druggists and doctors recommended them for hygiene and health.
In the spring of 1878, Anthony Comstock received word that a young woman who had attended one of Sara’s lectures in a church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had used a vaginal syringe that she bought from Sara, and then ulcerated her uterus. A doctor took care of her and she recovered. Anthony’s accounts of what happened are convoluted. The most important man in the lives of 19th-century women, he did not understand the difference between contraception and abortion and frequently conflated them in his arrest logbook accounts.
Together his accounts indicate that the young woman used a syringe as a contraceptive, got pregnant anyway, and then went to an abortionist—not Sara—who botched the procedure. Sara maintained for decades that she did not perform abortions and was opposed to them, even calling them “foeticide.”https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.478.1_en.html#goog_519447238Nana Nkweti in Conversation with Novuyo Rosa Tshuma00:18/56:54
Infuriated by the story of the Williamsburg girl, Anthony went to Sara’s home. Calling himself “Mr. Farnsworth,” he bought a syringe for five dollars. He returned on another day, revealed himself as Anthony Comstock, and brought in a cop and a New York Tribune reporter who were waiting across the street. He locked Sara’s boarders and patients in their rooms, ransacked the house, and found six syringes.
She was arrested and held on $1,500 bail and charged with selling articles for a criminal purpose under the New York state, or “little” Comstock law. The grand jury decided to dismiss the case because the district attorney felt that it was not “for the public good.”
After her case was dismissed she sued Anthony for false arrest, seeking $10,000—or around $275,000 in today’s dollars. She charged that he had injured her reputation and profession as a physician, causing the loss of clients and inflicting financial damage.
Anthony’s arrest was only the beginning of Sara’s campaign against him. In the pages of her health and progressive journal, The Physiologist & Family Physician, she wrote anti-Comstock screeds. She called his mind “vile” and his judgment “perverted,” and said he did not grasp “the difference between obscenity and science.”The most important man in the lives of 19th-century women, he did not understand the difference between contraception and abortion and frequently conflated them in his arrest logbook accounts.
In the June/July 1878 issue, she ran a notice for a new item to be sold to Physiologist readers. It was called the “‘Comstock’ Syringe.” The ad stated that it was the same one Sara had sold Comstock himself. It was “especially adapted to purposes of cleanliness, and the cure and prevention of disease.” Sara concluded, “We trust that the sudden popularity brought to this valuable syringe by the benevolent agency of the enterprising Mr. Comstock, will prove to suffering womanhood the most beneficent act of his illustrious life.”
A later “Comstock syringe” ad mentioned her lawsuit as a selling point, to let purchasers know that to buy a douche named after Comstock was a form of political action. It said the syringe was used by married women for the “judicious and healthy regulation of the female functions” (ode for preventing pregnancy) and was “a Blessing to Womankind.”
Comstock was so furious to see a vaginal douche being advertised under his name that he got a different grand jury to indict her, without informing them that her case had previously been dismissed. The assistant district attorney secured a nolle prosequi, declining to prosecute, and admonished him for withholding information and not going through the proper channels.
Furious that he could not get Sara locked up, Anthony vowed to ban the syringe, raid the Physiologist offices, and put Sara and her managing editor, Samuel Preston, behind bars. The duo secured bail and a lawyer. After Samuel wrote an article calling Anthony “a loathsome moral leper” and a fraud, the journal was banned by the post office. The duo and their supporters succeeded in getting mailing privileges restored. In celebration, Sara and Samuel filled their entire back page with an ad for the Comstock syringe, with testimonials from doctors, editors, and customers. “Anthony Comstock has at least been of some service to humanity in calling public attention to such a blessing as your Syringe,” read one.
Though Sara and Samuel managed to put out only a few more issues of the Physiologist before they had to fold it due to lack of money, the Comstock syringe lived on. Two prominent Massachusetts free lovers, the married couple Angela and Ezra Heywood, were so taken by Sara’s story and writing that they advertised a Comstock syringe in their free love journal, The Word. The first ad said, “If Comstock’s mother had had a syringe and known how to use it, what a world of woe it would have saved us!”
Though they probably didn’t know it, Comstock’s mother, Polly Comstock, had died at age 37 after hemorrhaging following the birth of her sixth child (a different account claimed that it was her tenth). The Heywood’s ad was cheeky, implying that the world would have been better if Anthony had never been born. But if Polly Comstock really had had a syringe and chosen to use it, it might have saved her from death. Rather than become a champion of women’s reproductive rights when he came home from school at the age of ten to find his mother dead, he became emboldened in his quest to make all women more like his mother, a pure, saintly, Christian wife and mother whose mission was to be fruitful and multiply—the Victorian ideal.
Another Comstock syringe ad in The Word said, “Comstock tried to imprison Sarah [sic] Chase for selling a syringe; she had him arrested and held for trial, while the syringe goes ‘marching on’ to hunt down and slay Comstock himself! Woman’s natural right to prevent conception is unquestionable; to enable her to protect herself against invasive male use of her person the celebrated Comstock Syringe, designed to prevent disease, promote personal purity and health, is coming into general use.”
But soon the Heywoods realized that they might be crediting Anthony with too much by naming a vaginal douche after him. In an issue several months after their first ad ran, they proclaimed that the product would thereafter be named “The Vaginal Syringe,” so that “its intelligent, humane and worthy mission should no longer be libelled by forced association with the pious scamp who thinks Congress gives him legal right of way to and control over every American Woman’s Womb.”Comstock was so furious to see a vaginal douche being advertised under his name that he got a different grand jury to indict her.
In October 1882 Anthony arrested Ezra, who had previously served six months in Dedham Jail for obscenity, on four counts of sending obscene matter. One count was for publishing an edition of The Word that contained two Walt Whitman poems, “A Woman Waits for Me” and “To a Common Prostitute.” Two were for issues that contained Comstock syringe ads.
Angela Heywood, who had a looser, more discursive, and provocative writing style than her husband, argued in The Word that the charges were unjust. To her, syringes were symbolic. In an 1883 essay she wrote, “Not books merely but a Syringe is in the fight; the will of man to impose vs. the Right of Woman to prevent conception is the issue… Does not Nature give to woman and install her in the right of way to & from her own womb? Shall Heism continue to be imperatively absolute in coition? Should not Sheism have her way also? Shall we submit to the loathsome impertinence which makes Anthony Comstock inspector and supervisor of American women’s wombs? This womb-syringe question is to the North what the Negro question was to the South.” She and Ezra had met in New England abolitionist circles and she frequently described women as enslaved by marriage, sexism, and economic inequality.
She proposed a satirical alternative to the Comstock law: a man would “flow semen” only when a woman said he could. She suggested other rules. A man had to keep his penis tied up with what she called “‘continent’ twine,” which he would have to keep nearby to assure his virtue. If he were found without the twine, he would be “liable, on conviction by twelve women, to ten years imprisonment and $5000 fine.” She then proposed “that a feminine Comstock shall go about to examine men’s penises and drag them to jail” if they dared break the semen-twine law.
The trial began in April 1883, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Ultimately, the judge threw out all charges except those related to the syringe. Ezra, representing himself, told the jury that women had a right to control conception. He said, “The man who would legislate to choke a woman’s vagina with semen, who would force a woman to retain his seed, bear children when her own reason and conscience oppose it, would way lay her, seize her by the throat and rape her person. I do not prescribe vaginal syringes; that is woman’s affair not mine; but her right to limit the number of children she will bear is unquestionable as her right to walk, eat, breathe or be still.” He called the charges “an effort to supervise maternal function by act of Congress.”
The judge told the jurymen that the government had to demonstrate that the syringe advertised in The Word was manufactured for the purpose of preventing conception. The men wanted to acquit from the beginning but also wanted lunch on the government’s tab. After eating their meal, they waited until three o’clock to give the verdict: not guilty of obscenity on the remaining charges. Ezra and Angela’s supporters burst into applause. In a speech before the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, Anthony said that the court had “turned into a free-love meeting.”
Ezra was acquitted, but a month later, he was arrested under Massachusetts law for mailing a reprint of several Word articles that included the “Syringe is in the fight” essay. Though Angela’s words had led to his indictment, Ezra was charged for mailing the reprint. Angela was pregnant with their fourth child, and Ezra thought it would send a strong sympathetic message if she were put on the stand. She, in turn, wanted to be charged for her writing when Ezra had repeatedly been charged for mailing the offending issues. She felt that he was being prosecuted because women were too sympathetic on the stand. Proudly, she wrote in The Word that the trial was one in which a woman had “persistently kept the words Penis and Womb traveling in the U.S. Mails.”Rather than become a champion of women’s reproductive rights, he became emboldened in his quest to make all women more like his mother.
The trial was postponed four times due to her pregnancy. The judge ruled that the prosecutors had to charge and prove a willful intent to corrupt the morals of youth, which he did not believe they did, and dismissed the charges.
In The Word, Angela began to use even franker language, writing in 1887 that “Cock is a fowl but not a foul word; upright, integral, insisting truth is the soul of it, sex-wise.” In 1889 she wrote, “Such graceful terms as hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, fucking, throbbing, kissing, and kin words, are telephone expressions, lighthouses of intercourse centrally immutable to the situation.”
But none of these strongly-worded pieces led to indictments. Instead, it was Angela’s “Syringe is in the fight” essay that landed Ezra in court for the third and final time. In the spring of 1890, more than 12 years after his first arrest, Ezra was indicted by a federal jury in Boston on three counts of obscenity published in The Word. One was for an April 1889 reprint of Angela’s syringe essay. Throughout the trial, Angela, who sat with one of the children on her lap, kept her gaze fixed on Ezra’s face. The jury found Ezra guilty on two charges, one involving the essay. He was sentenced to two years’ hard labor in Charlestown State Prison.
He was released in May 1892 and about a year later, died of an illness most likely contracted in prison. Angela was unable to keep printing The Word, and its last issue appeared the following April, after a 21-year run. She died in Brookline, Massachusetts, at the age of 94, having outlived her beloved husband by more than four decades.
As for Sara Chase, in June 1893, she was convicted of manslaughter in New York, in relation to a young woman patient named Margaret Manzoni. The woman had gotten a botched abortion from an abortionist and was transferred to Sara when it appeared she might die. Sara tried to save her but Manzoni died, and Sara was sentenced to nine years and eight months in the State Prison for Women in Auburn, New York. She was released in the fall of 1899, with time off for good behavior.
She was 62.
She kept giving sex lectures, and supported herself with needlework. After relocating to Pennsylvania, she mailed a syringe in response to a decoy letter sent by an associate of a deputy marshal. Comstock helped him track her to Elmora, New Jersey. In June 1900 she was arrested, and held in Newark on $2,500 bail, charged with being a fugitive from justice and sending improper medical advertisements. The case never went to trial.
Sara moved to Kansas City, Missouri, along with her daughter and son-in-law. She abandoned contraceptive sales, and died in Kansas City at age 73. While in prison she wrote a letter that was published in a prominent free love journal: “The need of reform is to be seen on every hand, yet all do not see it, and those who do are unable to resist the innate hatred of injustice and wrong that impels them to try to remedy the evils that lie in their way. They do not stop to count the cost. They only say, ‘This work must be done and I must help.’”
From The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age, copyright © 2021 by Amy Sohn. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
During the Second World War, a soldier obtained leave allowing him to return to his home.
As soon as he reached the street near his house, he saw a parked military truck loaded with corpses and knew that the enemy had bombed his city.
The truck was carrying dozens of dead bodies and was preparing to transport them to a mass grave.
The soldier stood in front of the piled-up corpses to take a last look at them and noticed that a shoe on a woman’s foot looked like a shoe he had previously bought for his wife.
He went to his house in a hurry to check on her but didn’t find her. He quickly retreated and went back to the truck again to check the body and found his wife.
He was left shocked. He said, “I’ll not want my wife buried in a mass grave”.
So he asked her body be pulled from the truck in preparation for a proper burial.
During the transfer, it was found that she was still breathing slowly but with difficulty. He carried her to the hospital where the necessary first aid was given to her and she came back to life again.
Years after this incident and at the end of the war, the wife who was almost buried alive became pregnant and gave birth to a boy in the picture above named “Vladimir Putin”
He is the current president of Russia.
It is true that tiny dedicated groups of German young people, the best known among them were the WHITE ROSE group of students at Munich University (Munich was the city in which the Nazi party was first organized, and where “Mein Kampf” was written) were murdered in their attempts to arouse the German people to the atrocities committed in their name and the need to take action against Naziism. Only recently was the story of the heroine commemorated below been revealed. https://whiterosemagazine.com/ exists in memory of the WHITE ROSE group, along with various commemorative sites in Germany and France. None so far exists anywhere in memory of Mildred Harnack.
The untold tale of the only American to lead a resistance group against the Nazis
- By LAURA MCCALLUM
- 19 hrs ago
“All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by: Rebecca Donner; Little, Brown (576 pages, $32)
Wisconsin native Mildred Harnack was the only American to help lead a Nazi-resistance group in Germany during World War II — and you’ve probably never heard of her.
Her largely unknown story is brought to light in “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by Rebecca Donner, also the author of a novel, a graphic novel and many essays. But this book is personal — Mildred Harnack was her great-great-aunt.
“Three generations separate us. She preferred anonymity, so I will whisper her name: Mildred Harnack,” she writes.
Donner relies on surviving family letters, declassified intelligence documents and interviews with survivors to tell Harnack’s story. Photos and snippets of letters and papers are sprinkled throughout this compelling book, which reads like a tragic novel where we wish we didn’t know the ending.
Harnack was guillotined on Feb. 16, 1943, at the age of 40 on Adolf Hitler’s direct orders, which we learn on page 6. Yet knowing her terrible fate from the onset shouldn’t dissuade you from reading this page-turner about Harnack’s perilous journey, no matter how much you know about the Holocaust and the brave resistance movement.
Born in Milwaukee, Mildred Fish was studying for a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin when she met German doctoral student Arvid Harnack. The two married and she followed him to his homeland, where she taught American literary history at the University of Berlin. Mildred quickly became troubled by the rise of Nazism.
Donner’s descriptive style takes us inside Nazi Germany and makes the book hard to put down. “Swastikas are cropping up like daisies everywhere: on posters pasted to the walls of U-Bahn stations, on flags and banners and pamphlets,” she writes.
Mildred is most anxious about the politician gaining popularity, “a high-school dropout named Adolf Hitler who, Mildred predicts, will bring ‘a great increase of misery and oppression.’”
She begins holding secret resistance meetings in her apartment, forming a group she and Arvid name The Circle. She recruits like-minded members who first distribute leaflets urging Germans to “resist, resist, resist,” and later put their lives at risk feeding intelligence about Hitler’s expansion plans to the U.S. and elsewhere.
We see Hitler’s rise to power and increasingly violent crackdown on his perceived enemies through the eyes of Mildred and Arvid. Donner’s book documents their sham trials on charges of treason. Its title stems from what a chaplain observed when he visited Mildred in prison, emaciated and struggling with tuberculosis, yet intensely focused on translating a volume of Goethe’s poems into English.
“In all the frequent troubles of our days / A God gave compensation — more his praise / In looking sky- and heavenward as duty / In sunshine and in virtue and in beauty.”
Mildred Harnack didn’t survive to see the end of the war or Hitler’s downfall. But her heroic actions may now get the attention they deserve through this heartbreaking work written by her descendant.
7 August 2019
Come rain or shine this weekend (and it’s looking like a mix of both) you can join in with our Indoor Archery event (King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester UK) and take aim to see how many points you can score.
As it’s all about archery this weekend we asked Joe from our Visitor Services team to look back on one of the most famous types of soldier and weapons in English history – the longbowman and his bow:
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about longbows and their users and just as many interesting bits of trivia that our visitors might not know! Here’s a few facts about longbowmen to whet your appetite in time for the weekend…
English longbows were powerful. You may have already assumed that but it’s hard to emphasise just how powerful they were. If you have ever had a go at archery before, you’ll be familiar with Olympic bows. They tend to have a reasonable “poundage” of about 50lbs, meaning it requires 50lbs of force to draw the bow. This is also reduced by modern technologies and mechanisms that make them easier to draw. In addition, modern bows have sights and rests to make aiming much easier.
No such luck with medieval longbows! Every aspect of using an English longbow was manual – your knuckle was used to rest your arrow as you drew it back and aiming was done largely through muscle memory and practice. Couple this with draw weights of anywhere between 100 and 200lbs and you can see why the longbow was such a devastating weapon!
The skeletons of English archers were deformed from years of archery! The high poundage of war bows, coupled with years of training in their use from a young age, led to skeletons having over-developed shoulder and arm bones to compensate for the growth of muscle around those areas.
Below is an image of a reconstruction of the skeleton of an English longbowman. Notice how the arms are slightly bowed, the shoulders unusually hunched and that the right shoulder, the drawing arm, sits higher than the left.
The ‘English’ Longbow
The English longbow is legendary. It is known as the weapon that brought France to its knees and saw English domination of the medieval battlefield, a weapon that is quintessentially English… Except it isn’t! The ‘English’ longbow was in fact a weapon of Welsh origins.
It was first encountered by the English during William the Conqueror’s invasion of Wales in the 11th Century and impressed the Normans so much with its effectiveness that they adopted it for themselves. In fact, throughout much of what is considered the golden age of the longbow, a large proportion of longbowmen deployed in English armies were Welsh, the Welsh still being considered the best longbowmen in the land!
The Professional Archer
To this day there is a prevailing idea of the longbowman being a peasant soldier; a man forced by law to train in archery all the time and plucked from his farm to fight on foreign soil.
This has led to many of our ideas of the cream of the French nobility felled by a rabble of barely trained peasants. The truth is more complicated. Whilst it is true that a royal edict demanded that able bodied men above the age of 14 practice archery for two hours a week, the truth is that most archers in service to the king were professional soldiers.
The majority of the peasantry wouldn’t have been skilled enough with the minimal amount of training decreed by law (a law that was rarely enforced) and probably wouldn’t have even been able to afford bows powerful enough to use as war bows.
In reality, most archers were professional soldiers from what could be seen as a sort of early middle class and were paid a wage on par with a trained tradesman, such as a stonemason. They certainly weren’t nobles and there were definitely peasants amongst their ranks but to say that all English longbowmen were peasants is somewhat misleading.
One of the most popular images in Hollywood when it comes to archery is of the fire arrow. We’ve all seen the moment in a pitched battle when the archers light the end of their arrows to rain fiery death upon their enemies. This is very much “Hollywood” as it didn’t really happen.
Fire arrows definitely existed, in fact the siege of Oran in 1404 saw extensive use of flaming arrows loosed from low poundage bows to ignite houses. But that was basically their only use, as a siege weapon.
Against infantry, fire arrows would have been woefully ineffective as most medieval armour wasn’t highly flammable, the fire cage arrow had very poor penetration due to its shape and it simply couldn’t be loosed at high speeds from powerful bows without extinguishing the flames before reaching their target.
So, if you see archers in films using fire arrows against anything other than a building, it’s probably fantasy!
Below is a replica of a medieval fire cage arrow head. Cloth would be wrapped through the cage and ignited.
(Thanks to Sabana Grande, c/o Medium)
What We Didn’t Know About Longbows and Archers
British longbows, or “war bows,” were considered a superweapon during the Medieval ages. Despite that, many historians claimed that their power was exaggerated as the results described in old manuscripts could not be reproduced by modern replicas of longbows.
For example, these bows were supposed to be able to pierce even the thickest of steel plate armor. One account by a 12th-century clergyman called Gerald of Wales claimed that an arrow fired from a longbow once pierced a soldier’s armor, went through his thigh, and actually killed the horse he was riding on.
But when historians attempted to make longbows like these, they found that their draw weight of 60–80 lbs simply could not produce enough force to do that. In 1982, they were proven wrong as the 172 bows on the Mary Rose were, in fact, way more powerful than ever imagined.
Their draw weight was an estimated 100–200lbs (45-90kg). Given that the bows themselves were about 6.5ft (2m) in length, it seemed as if they were weapons made for giants or immensely powerful ogres to wield. The greatest archers of the day were able to fire 6–12 arrows per minute. This meant pulling back a weight possibly as heavy or heavier than their bodies with one arm up to 12 times!
To put this in perspective, the bows used by today’s Olympic athletes who trained their whole lives only have a draw weight of about 50 lbs. And many of the archers have lifelong shoulder problems after retiring.
But there was a reasonable explanation for why Englishmen from over 500 years ago could use these powerful weapons.
Everyone Had to Practice Archery by Law — Until Their Bodies Were Deformed
During Tudor times, archery was not only one of the most popular sports, but its practice was actually mandatory for all able-bodied men. Children as young as six years old were trained for 8–10 years before they became proficient at the use of longbows. This led to their bodies becoming deformed.
The first thing they would have noticed was that their left shoulders grew larger and more striated from holding the bow. The right sides of their backs would have similarly been more muscular than their left from pulling the strings.
But the skeletons on board the Mary Rose showed that bodily changes resulting from firing longbows were not limited only to the muscles. Surprisingly, all the skeletons of archers on board actually had their right shoulder sockets further up than their left sockets, meaning that they had one shoulder higher than the other.
Furthermore, their arms were naturally bowed — ie. bent outwards. They literally had twisted bones in their arms. And their backs were also hunched.
Aside from looking quite intimidating from all the muscle they carried back when they were alive, these folk would have looked quite weird.
It was through the discovery of the Mary Rose warship (discovered in the mud in the bottom of Portsmouth Harbor in 1971) that historians realized exactly what it took to fire these weapons. Longbows allowed the English to dominate European wars for centuries.
They were even better than crossbows in several ways. For example, they didn’t take as long to load and fire, and their strings could easily be removed and changed when they broke, while the ones on crossbows couldn’t. They also had a longer range and, for hundreds of years, they were the more powerful armor-penetrating weapon.
The only thing that put the longbows out of use were firearms, as demonstrated by the fact that the longbows on the ship were stored among guns. In other words, they were still considered somewhat useful even then —despite the fact they required a great amount of personal sacrifice to be able to use.
(Next time you visit Alexandria, bring your metal detector?)
Facts About Cleopatra’s Death That Sound Made Up – But Aren’t
Updated December 18, 2020
Picture the scene: It’s summer in Egypt, and Cleopatra, the kingdom’s most famous ruler, knows Augustus, her mortal enemy, is in Alexandria ready to dethrone her with his legion of Roman soldiers. Cleopatra senses the end is imminent – not just for her, but for her long-time partner, the Roman general Mark Antony.
While historians debate the particular events that transpired that August in 30 BC, it’s certain that, by the end of the month, Cleopatra and Antony were no more. Over the centuries, the legend of Cleopatra’s death has overshadowed the true history of this often misrepresented, self-proclaimed goddess’s final days. However, the truth is sometimes more unbelievable than fiction, and no one proves this better than Cleopatra herself.
- Photo: Justus van Egmont /
- After The Battle Of Actium, She Created A Goth-Sounding Secret Society In 31 BC, a year prior to her demise, Cleopatra watched as the combined naval fleets of Egypt and Mark Antony were decimated by Augustus’s forces at the Battle of Actium. While Augustus consolidated power in Rome, the ill-fated lovers retreated back to Alexandria to bide their time before Augustus’s next move.In the year following the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra and Antony put their exorbitant wealth toward one lavish party after another. They also dissolved their drinking club, “The Society of Inimitable Livers,” and formed a new one: “Companions to the Death.”Cleopatra took this macabre obsession with her demise to the next level, erecting her own mausoleum in Alexandria. In her defense, most of her Roman allies abandoned her. The queen knew her reign was coming to an end.
- Photo: Sergey Sosnovskiy
- Believing Cleopatra Had Perished, Mark Antony Attempted To Do The Same. It all came to a head around August 1, 30 BC. Antony and Augustus battled on the outskirts of Alexandria, but Antony’s army was no match for his opponent’s. Antony’s men, knowing they were doomed, deserted him and joined Augustus. Antony had no choice but to surrender.When word of this reached Cleopatra, she fled to her mausoleum. She decided to fake her death by sending a note to Antony, believing he would follow suit. Some historians think Cleopatra was secretly negotiating with Augustus, and she knew Antony was doomed no matter what.Whatever her motivation, when the letter about Cleopatra’s demise reached Antony, he was devastated. As the Greek historian Plutarch tells it, Antony spoke these words:”O Cleopatra, I am not distressed to have lost you, for I shall straightaway join you; but I am grieved that a commander as great as I should be found to be inferior to a woman in courage.” Antony then stabbed himself in the stomach with his own sword.
- Photo: Pompeo Batoni
- A Fatally Wounded Antony Was Carried To Cleopatra’s Tomb. The self-inflicted wound did not end Antony’s life. When word of his condition made it to Cleopatra, she had her injured lover brought to the mausoleum. Soon after, Antony expired in Cleopatra’s arms. Without her companion, Cleopatra likely worked many angles to win Augustus’s favor. It’s clear the would-be Roman emperor only cared about one thing: obtaining Cleopatra’s wealth, which she stockpiled in the mausoleum.
- Plutarch wrote that Augustus “was fearful about the treasures in her funeral pyre, and he thought it would add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession” of victory back home in Rome.If there’s anything Cleopatra refused to be, it was a trophy.
- Augustus Apparently Allowed Her To Give Antony A Proper Burial.
- Nearly two weeks transpired between the passings of Antony and Cleopatra. While popular lore often excludes this detail, Augustus granted Cleopatra permission to tend to Antony’s body. Antony was either embalmed, inhumed, or cremated according to Egyptian customs.This funerary ritual may have filled Cleopatra with a sense of foreboding and dread, as she was well aware that a similar destiny awaited her.
- Photo: Peter Paul Rubens
- She May Have Used A Snake To End Her Own Life. Museums around the world are full of paintings depicting a scantily clad Cleopatra grasping a venomous snake. As the story goes, the ruler lured a cobra or viper into her chamber, which promptly bit her. The snake’s venomous bite brought Cleopatra’s 39 years of life to an abrupt end.Spoiler alert: No one knows exactly how Cleopatra perished on or around August 12. Augustus made it clear her only option was to return to Rome with him, where she would be paraded around like a conquest. It’s on-brand that this powerful, female ruler would rather take her own life than be subjected to so much ridicule.Many historians believe Cleopatra either poisoned herself or was assassinated by Augustus. A hundred years after her demise, Plutarch hypothesized in his published annals that Augustus developed the snake bite narrative as a propaganda tool to amplify his power in Rome. Other ancient historians, most of them Roman, stand by the snake bite tale. More and more contemporary historians, though, think Plutarch’s theory is a more realistic one.
- Photo: Juan Luna
- Two Of Her Maidservants Passed With Her. From the beginning of the ordeal, two of Cleopatra’s closest maidservants stayed by her side: Iras and Charmion. In multiple chronicles and works of art, the women flank the lifeless body of their ruler, having succumbed to the same plight as Cleopatra.Most portrayals show the three pallid women in Cleopatra’s mausoleum, surrounded by vestiges of her riches. If the saga is true, it’s less likely one venomous snake could be responsible for three fatalities, and more likely the women came into contact with a lethal concoction or poison.Ultimately, though, as the second-century writer Cassius Dio declares in his Roman History, “No one knows clearly in what way [they] perished.”
- Before She Passed, Cleopatra Was Considered An Enemy Of The Roman StateBefore the Battle of Actium, Augustus and Antony vied for control of Rome in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC. The two generals essentially split the growing Roman Empire between them, and Cleopatra sided with Antony.As Cleopatra and Antony’s romance blossomed, Antony neglected his wife in Rome – Octavia, Augustus’s sister. Augustus used the affair between Cleopatra and Antony to rile up his fellow Roman statesmen. When Antony officially divorced Octavia, Augustus used his power to declare war on Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, in 32 BC.The move was a strategic one for Augustus, who later journaled about how the declaration improved his chances of defeating Antony: “The whole of Italy voluntarily took oath of allegiance to me and demanded me as its leader in the war in which I was victorious at Actium.”
- Photo: John William Waterhouse
- Her Only Child With Julius Caesar Also Met A Terrible Fate. Antony was not the first Roman general Cleopatra fell for. In 47 BC, she gave birth to a son named Caesarion, whose father was allegedly Julius Caesar. After Caesar was taken out by Roman senators, Cleopatra shacked up with Antony, with whom she had three children: one girl and two boys.When she lost the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra sent the teenaged Caesarion away, convinced he would be assassinated on the spot by Augustus’s army. Caesarion and part of his mother’s royal treasury sailed up the Nile River, where he hoped to eventually make it all the way to India.Unfortunately, the 17-year-old Caesarion was caught along the way and didn’t survive the trip.
- While Her Daughter Survived, The Fate Of Her Two Sons With Antony Remains Unknown. Cleopatra and Antony shared twins (one female, the other male) and a young son. After their parents perished, the children were shipped to Rome and put under the care of Octavia, Antony’s former wife.The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, by all accounts went on to live a full life. The boys, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, eventually disappeared without a trace. What happened to the young men remains shrouded in mystery.
- Photo: Einsamer Schütze
- The Ptolemaic Dynasty Ended With Cleopatra. Even though she donned the title Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra was not ethnically North African. Her royal family, the Ptolemaic Dynasty, were all Macedonian Greeks who controlled Egypt for nearly 300 years. The first ruler, Ptolemy I Soter, rose to power after the demise of Alexander the Great, reigning as both an Egyptian Pharaoh and a Greek monarch.The Ptolemies, as they came to be known, isolated themselves in their capital city, Alexandria, and married within the family line in order to keep their lineage Greek. The kingdom came crashing down when Cleopatra perished, and what remained of it was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire.
- The so-far undiscovered tomb?
- Photo: The Boucicaut Master
- Antony And Cleopatra Were Buried Together In An Alexandrian Tomb. Honoring Cleopatra’s final wishes, Augustus buried the deceased ruler next to Antony in a large tomb somewhere around Alexandria. Like something out of a Shakespearean play, the two lovers were reunited in their final rest.This story was corroborated by Plutarch, who wrote that Augustus declared that Cleopatra’s “body should be buried with that of Antony in splendid and regal fashion.” Another ancient historian, Suetonius, backs this up, explaining that Augustus “allowed them both the honor of burial, and in the same tomb, giving orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be finished.”
- The Location Of Their Tomb Has Yet To Be Discovered. Where is the fabled tomb that contains the remains of Cleopatra and Antony? What other treasures, if any, exist inside it? Despite what some archaeologists have claimed over the years, the location of the tomb remains unclear. One recent theory is that her tomb lies 30 miles outside of Alexandria in the ancient temple site of Taposiris Magna.Scientists have searched far and wide in and around Alexandria for clues, but the hunt continues for the queen of Egypt and her Roman lover.
Below example is from Norfolk Virginia——————————Clearly, the “leakage” of firearms into challenged neighborhoods is the principal driver of gun violence. Perpetrators of gun crimes may have been “set up” by lead in their environment as children——shouldn’t we do something about this?
UWM study finds over half of gun violence perpetrators and victims had elevated blood lead levels as children
More than half of the people who were perpetrators or victims of gun violence in Milwaukee in recent years had elevated blood lead levels as children, according to a study released Friday by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The study of nearly 90,000 residents, conducted at the University’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, suggests a link between early childhood lead exposure and gun violence in later years.
Lindsay R. Emer, the study’s lead author, said it was conducted using public health, education and criminal justice data.
After reviewing the records of 89,129 people who were born in Milwaukee between June 1, 1986, and Dec. 31, 2003, and given blood lead tests before the age of 6, Emer and other researchers found a correlation between elevated blood lead levels and the risk of being involved in gun violence.
Emer said that while the study was not able to definitively prove cause and effect, the link is striking:
According to their findings, 56% of the shooters and 51% of the victims were found to have blood lead levels equal to or greater than the recommended limit of lead exposure of 5 micrograms per deciliter.
The study originated from a dissertation Emer started she while still a doctoral student at UWM.
Since then, she has earned and defended her Ph.D., worked with the Medical College of Wisconsin and is currently a senior research consultant at the National Center for State Court.
The publication of her study, “Association of childhood blood lead levels with firearm violence perpetration and victimization in Milwaukee,” is a culmination of years of work.
Emer said she and other researchers gathered their sample size from people who had consistent Milwaukee addresses for their lead test(s) and were documented in the Milwaukee Public Schools system.
They then compared that group with those who were listed as gun violence victims or perpetrators in Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission data. The commission — created by Mallory O’Brien, also listed as an author in this study — gathered data only between 2005 and 2015.
Because of that, Emer said, she chose birth years from 1986 to 2003 because that would make her sample size young adults by the time the review commission was active.
During those years, deteriorating lead paint and household dust were contaminating children, many of whom were more likely to be poor and/or African American.
Those same racial and socioeconomic disparities were reflected in the racial and socioeconomic disparity of people overrepresented in the review commission as perpetrators or victims of gun violence.
The study follows a consistent vein of prior research connecting lead exposure and violence:
Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley published a study in 2016 that concluded that cities that used lead water pipes had homicide rates that were 24% higher than cities that did not.
Two researchers published a paper in 2017 for the National Bureau of Economic Research that studied the link between lead exposure and juvenile delinquency and found that as blood lead levels increased, so did the probability of suspension from school.
That trend is highlighted by this latest study, which concluded, “In Milwaukee, during a period of high lead exposures, childhood levels may have substantially contributed to adult firearm violence.”
This more localized study comes as Milwaukee children continue to experience elevated blood lead levels; an average of 3,000 of the 25,000 Milwaukee children tested for lead each year have elevated levels, the Journal Sentinel has reported.
Childhood lead exposure has been proven to reduce IQ scores and increase attention disorders, both of which put children at risk for increased delinquency.
Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, described lead exposure in children as insidious.
“If it’s not overt poison, one of the challenges is you don’t really see acute symptoms,” he said. “You do see symptoms more like acting-out type behaviors: ADHD type behaviors, problems with schoolwork, risk-taking behaviors, impulsive behaviors in kids, delinquency in kids.”
Those behavioral challenges, he noted, don’t just disappear once someone turns 18.
“Conduct disorder in children matures into delinquent and sometimes even criminal behavior,” he said.
Robert Miranda, a spokesperson for the Freshwater for Life Act Coalition, said the study confirms a long line of research that has several implications.
For example, he said the city should consider testing prisoners’ blood lead levels and seeing if certain treatments targeting the effects of lead exposure can help reduce recidivism.
Moreover, he said more conclusive evidence of what lead poisoning can do should encourage the city to move urgently — more urgently, he said, than what its current plan calls for.
“Replacing 1,000 lead service lines a year isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The damage done by lead poisoning is irreversible. So those children who have been harmed today are pretty much damaged for the rest of their lives.
“What we need to get focused on is treating those children who have been harmed today, but to remove this toxic poison from our environment completely so more children can be saved.”
Lead abatement in Milwaukee
Earlier this month, the city received a grant of nearly $6 million for lead abatement, in addition to the $21 million Mayor Tom Barrett earmarked in his 2020 budget.
At recent budget hearings, residents have demanded that more funding go toward speeding up the city’s process on lead abatement.
Last month, lead-free activists at Hephatha Lutheran Church gathered pledges from local politicians to support a $240,000 program to provide lead-education kits to new mothers in the hospital.
Supporters of that pledge included Aldermen Ashanti Hamilton, Russell Stamper, Jose Perez, Nik Kovac and Mark Borkowski and Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.