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Community History Archives: This Week in History: June 17th – June 23rd

This week in history holds new information about the events that you likely know a lot about. From infamous scandals to beloved holidays, there is always something new to learn about the past. I hope this week I can teach you something new, as well as provide you with some search tips to help you learn even more about any topic you may research!

(2000s – Present) Peace Out: Brexit Referendum, 2016

Brexit is the term commonly used to describe the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union. A referendum was held on June 23, 2016, to vote on the exit. The result was 51.9% in favor of Brexit, and the United Kingdom’s exit began.
The exit of the UK was not formalized until January 31, 2020. Even though they had voted to leave, there were still a lot of details that needed to be worked out between the UK and the EU. Between trade policies and immigration, they had to work out how their relationship would work going forward. Brexit changed the economic and political landscape in Europe, and we continue to see those changes unfold each year the UK functions on their own. 

I found an interesting perspective on Brexit in the Pilot Tribune published in Storm Lake, Iowa on June 30th, 2016. They featured a story from a local professor who is from Britain and shared his reaction to the news. Professor Jon Hutchins described his reaction as very disappointed and very surprised that they had voted to leave. He argued that the vote was more of a representation of the wealth distribution in the UK than anything else. 

(1980s – 2000s) Welcome to the W: First WNBA Game Played, 1997

The first ever WNBA game was played on June 21st, 1997. The matchup was between the New York Liberty and the LA Sparks. A little under 15,000 people attended the game and watched Liberty take down the Sparks 67-57. In its inaugural year, the league only had 8 teams. 

The WNBA has come so far since that first game. This year alone the league has added two new teams, the Golden State Valkyries and an unnamed team based in Toronto. With the rise of Iowa Super Star Caitlin Clark, more fans have been drawn to the WNBA than ever before. Now, games have been selling out left and right as women’s basketball fans follow their rookie-class favorites. Personally, I have become a fan of the Las Vegas Aces and following Kate Martin on her journey in the W. 

Through the 2024 season, over 400,000 people have attended WNBA games. The league has gained even more broadcast viewers and games are now being played on cable channels. It has been so fun to watch women’s basketball grow and I can’t wait to see how far these incredibly talented women go. 

While doing my research on the history of the league, it seems that the same criticisms shared today are not new. In a piece from The Daily News published in Newbury, Massachusetts, they summed up the WNBA’s inaugural season by saying “Nobody dunked. Plenty of people watched anyways”. 

Another sports commentator published in the Kalona News in Kalona Iowa his thoughts on the game, which included his complaints. He was disappointed that of all the players in the league, he only was familiar with one. This is something that I think has changed majorly in the last few years. As more attention has been turned towards women’s college basketball, more fans know the names of the players. Ask almost anybody you see to name a women’s basketball player, and they’ll answer with the likes of Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, Kate Martin, and Kamilla Cardoso. Now, viewers show up for the players they loved in college and fall in love with the players who have been in the league for years.

(1945 – 1980s) The Start of a Scandal: Watergate Break In, 1972

Almost every American is familiar with the Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. For those who aren’t quite familiar with the story, let me give you a brief explanation. 

The Watergate office complex in Washington DC was the headquarters of the Democratic National Convention in 1972. Nixon, a member of the Republican Party, was running for reelection in 1972. On June 17th, individuals connected to Nixon’s Re-election campaign attempted to break into the DNC headquarters and collect information to sabotage the democratic party in the upcoming election. They were caught by a security guard on duty at the complex, who noticed unusual behavior involving tape on the doors which allowed them to stay closed but unlocked. He alerted the authorities, and the burglars were arrested.

Initially, the Nixon administration attempted to cover up the incident and distance themselves from any connection to the break-in. However, after further investigation, they were able to link the burglars to his re-election campaign. Nixon faced impeachment charges for this incident and resigned before he was tried for the charges. 

A lot of reactions to the scandal were delayed due to the attempted coverup. However, when the truth came out, a lot of people had emotions to share. A writer at the Storm Lake register described it as a “shattering of integrity” and begged the question “Who can you trust?”. The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune shared the statements of various political figures, who shared statements ranging from disappointment in the President to arguing that his explanation was adequate. To this day, the Watergate scandal is an infamous part of Nixon’s Legacy. 

(1914 – 1945) One Step Closer: Victory in Okinawa, 1945

The battle in Okinawa lasted from April 1st to June 22nd, 1945. It was one of the bloodiest of the war. Okinawa is an island off the coast of mainland Japan and was a crucial piece of control of the mainland. The Allies hoped to capture the island to prepare for their invasion of Mainland Japan, and the Japanese wanted to maintain control to protect it. Casualties in the battle were extremely high, with over 12,000 Americans being either killed in action or missing in action. The Japanese lost significantly more troops due to their Kamikaze attacks. 

The Newark Evening News in Newark, New Jersey, published on June 22nd, 1945 “Okinawa Ours”. The piece described the victory in Okinawa, and what that meant for the Allied forces going forward. They knew that while this victory was crucial in helping the Allies win the war, there was still so much further to go and that the path wouldn’t be easy. 

I have a personal connection to the Battle of Okinawa, and I am fascinated by it because of one incredible woman. My Great Grandma was a nurse in Okinawa, and though she passed when I was very little, I have been able to read her accounts of the war. It is so cool to have a personal connection to history, and it makes everything so much more real. 

I’ll share her account of the events:

“The island was becoming secure by the end of June. There were just mopping up operations and we were less and less busy. Work wasn’t really that hard back at the 381st and about that time they dropped the atomic bomb. Then a few days later the Japanese surrendered and it was bedlam on Okinawa! It was worse than any Fourth of July you ever saw. I think every gun on the island went off. There wasn’t an outfit in place that wasn’t firing. Falling shrapnel penetrated tents and even some of our troops were killed. But we were out there without helmets – we celebrated! It was a wild, wild time. The sky was just completely lit up.”

If you want to read her whole story, you can find it on the Advantage Archives blog. It is worth the read, and a fascinating first-hand account of the war that is different from what we usually hear. While the troops in the war were undoubtedly heroic, it took more than just them to win the war. My search tip for the week is to seek out new perspectives. We often hear the same versions of those big stories over and over. However, if you seek out new perspectives, you will likely discover details that you have never heard before.

(1824 – 1914) Thank You, Dad: First Father’s Day, 1910

This past Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day, a day where we celebrate all the incredible father figures in our lives. If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself wondering this weekend when this yearly tradition started. If that is the case, you’re in luck, because I figured it out. 

The very first celebration of Father’s Day was on June 19th, 1910. A woman from Spokane, Washington had the idea on Mother’s Day to hold a similar celebration for fathers. With the help of local religious leaders, they celebrated the first Father’s Day that month in June to honor her father who was born in June, but had since passed away. While various administrations recognized the day, it was not until 1972 that it became signed into legislation as a national holiday.

A lot of what I found talking about fathers day came after it became a national holiday. It seems that other people had the idea and celebrated it at various times of the year, but it didn’t become an organized celebration until much later. One funny piece I found was in the Lakeville Journal published in Lakeville, Connecticut on June 27th, 1912. The section seemed to be somewhat of a comedy section including a few different jokes. The situation was between two men. When the first asked why there wasn’t a celebration for fathers like there is for Mother’s Day, the other responded by saying “Father has every Saturday night, doesn’t he?”. While it seems that the idea of fathers day was something to laugh about in the beginning, it is now something that is celebrated every year. 

I hope this week in history taught you something new about some of the most well-known historical events. Join me again next week to discover more of history’s hidden gems and timeless tales!

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