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Community History Archives: This Week In History: June 24th – June 30th

This week in history is all about progress for everyone. Members of different minority groups saw representation and advocacy for themselves through this week’s events. Women around the world saw that they were capable of holding high positions of power. Oppressed groups learned that they could fight back against discrimination and violence. An example was set for everyone with disabilities, showing that they can do anything they put their minds to. Join me as I tell you some inspiring stories from this week in history. As always, I’ll be sharing research tips to aid you in your research.  

(2000s – Present) Women in Office: Julia Gillard Becomes Prime Minister, 2010

On June 24, 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman to hold the position of Australian Prime Minister. She was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and served for just over 3 years. She was most commonly a member of the Australian Labor Party. She came into the position following a leadership spill in the ALP, where she became the new leader of the party and was sworn in as prime minister. 

During her time as prime minister, she pursued many notable policy initiatives. This included education reform, school funding, and navigating through economic struggles in the nation. A few of the policies she passed include a Clean Energy Bill, the Clean Energy Act of 2011, and the Mineral Resource Rent Tax. Her time as prime minister was groundbreaking for diversity within the Australian government and proved a woman was just as capable of doing the job as a man was. 

Despite making history, there weren’t a lot of pieces I could find about Julia Gillard. I suspect this is because she is Australian, and most of the Community History Archives are based in the United States, so it probably wouldn’t have made the first page. I did find mentions of her in the Cedar Rapids Gazette published on September 8th, 2013, where they discussed the recent changes in the Prime Minister’s position. This involved them replacing Gillard with her predecessor Kevin Rudd, whom she had replaced in the position of leader of the Labor Party and as prime minister. Rudd was then forced to step down as Labor Party leader later on by Tony Abbott, who replaced him. 

(1980s – 2000s) Fact or Fiction: Roswell Report, 1997

UFOs are a staple in many sci-fi stories and conspiracy theories. On June 24th, 1977, the United States Air Force published a report to clear the air on one event that fueled many theories about extraterrestrial life. 

In 1947, there was an alleged crash of an unidentified flying object (UFO) around Roswell, New Mexico. Mac Brazel, a rancher in the area, found debris that appeared to be various ship parts (like metal foil) on his land. He reported his findings to the local air force base, who published the next day that they had found and recovered a “flying saucer”. If the wording of this release was slightly different, it probably wouldn’t have sparked as much conversation as it did. When Americans heard “flying saucer”, their first thought was aliens. 

The next day, the Air Force revised their statement, claiming that it was a part of a crashed weather balloon. You would think that this would have put an end to any conspiracy theories, but it didn’t hinder them from spreading like wildfire anyway. As time went on, people began to add more and more to the story. People were saying they saw alien bodies on the scene, or that they saw the crash. Some people began to believe that the government was covering up what happened. 

All the discussion about whether the Air Force was being truthful about what happened sparked them to release a report that would put an end to any conspiracy theories. The Roswell Report explained that the crash was from testing a weather balloon that would spy on the Soviet Union. This extensive report put an end to all conspiracy theories’ validity. That hasn’t stopped some people from continuing to believe in the UFO, but it remains just a conspiracy. 

One good argument I saw was one published on July 19th, 1997 in the Casa Grande Dispatch from Casa Grande, Arizona. They made the argument that the attempt to cover up the truth just caused more conspiracy than telling the truth would have. They claimed that the information revealed in the report was something that could have been shared years before and that the government didn’t need to wait as long as they did. If the truth were to have been revealed sooner, then there wouldn’t be groups of Americans who bought into the conspiracy of the UFO. This was an interesting perspective on the reports because it gave me insight into what the rest of the general public thought about the report. 

(1945 – 1980s) The Birth of A Movement: The Stonewall Uprising, 1969

The Stonewall Uprising, more commonly known as the Stonewall Riots, was a series of riots in 1969 and was a landmark moment in the gay rights movement. 

It all began on June 28, 1969, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn was a gay club in Greenwich Village of New York City. During the 1960’s, it was no longer illegal to serve suspected LGBTQ citizens alcohol. However, it was still illegal to commit any amount of PDA with someone of the same sex. Because of this, many LBGTQ+ Americans flocked to gay clubs and bars, where they found a sense of community and were able to be themselves freely. They were not the only ones who flocked to the bars though, because wherever they went, they were followed by constant police raids. 

The Stonewall Inn was a club bought and renovated by a crime syndicate in New York City. They bribed the police to turn a blind eye to the LGBTQ visitors, who they found a source of profit in catering to. The bars in NYC run by various crime syndicates were often tipped off before raids happened, giving them time to hide any illegal activities. However, the Stonewall Inn was not tipped off about the raid on June 28th and was surprised when law enforcement arrived. 

Law enforcement officers roughed up patrons and arrested both patrons and workers, some for simply dressing outside of gender-normative clothing trends. Rather than disperse from the crowd, patrons of the bar and members of the community gathered outside of the bar. They grew more and more angry, and the gathering quickly turned into a riot. Six days of protest followed suit, inciting violence and activism in the Greenwich Neighborhood and others. 

The Stonewall Uprising was not the precise beginning of the Gay Rights movement. It would take many years and a lot more work for LGBTQ+ Americans to receive the same rights as their straight counterparts. However, it inspired a lot of activism and motivated many Americans to begin to speak out against discrimination. 

It was really difficult to find anything about the riots that didn’t come out until years after the event. I would guess that this is due to the stigma that surrounded the LGBTQ community in the years that it happened. Why would the news report on something that happened to people they don’t care for? I did however find a piece from the 40th anniversary of the incident published in The Evening Sun on June 29th, 2009. It featured a quote from Flavio Rando, who took part in the very first movement following the events of Stonewall. He reflected on what happened and said “It feels like we changed the world”, which I think is a perfect representation of the importance of the Stonewall Riots. 

This section is where my search tip of the week comes in. When you’re looking for something specific, and keep getting irrelevant results, don’t forget to utilize the “none of the words” and “any of the words” search filters. This will help you to narrow down what you’re looking for and will exclude all those irrelevant results that bury what you want. When I was looking for information about Stonewall, every time I searched for just the word I got hundreds of results about Stonewall Jackson. This wasn’t what I was looking for, so I added a filter to exclude the word “Jackson”, and it got rid of a lot of the irrelevant results. It wasn’t perfect and some strays slipped through, but it was much easier to look past them when it wasn’t every other result. 

(1914 – 1945) Starting World War One: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 1914

Archduke Franz Ferdinand is one of the names you learn in any high school history class. The Assassination of the Archduke is one of the causes most directly attributed to starting the First World War. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the throne in Austria-Hungary. 

Ferdinand and his wife were visiting Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herz when they were assassinated on June 28th, 1914. The perpetrators were a group of Bosnian-Serb nationalists led by Gavrilo Princip. Their goal in the assassination was to free Bosnia from the rule of Austria-Hungary. Princip shot Ferdinand and his wife, fatally hitting both. The Assassination led to conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, where they played the blame game until Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which later escalated into World War I. 

I found two interesting pieces related to this event. One was a timeline of when different powers entered the war, published in the Preston County Journal on May 27th, 1915. The very first was cited as a result of the assassination of the Archduke. The second, and more interesting of the two, I found in the Mineral Daily News, published on July 21st, 1978. They published in an “About People” piece, that the Archduke had a tattoo of a serpent on his hip which he believed acted as a charm against bullets. As we all know, this turned out to be unfortunately ironic as he was shot and killed. I found that to be interesting, even though I could not find if that was entirely true. 

(1824 – 1914) Milestone Moment: Hellen Keller Graduates, 1904

Hellen Keller is a household name in America because of the incredible feats she achieved. Keller was both deaf and blind for almost her entire life. That didn’t stop her from living her life like everyone else. 

In her younger years, she worked with a teacher named Anne Mansfield Sullivan, who worked for the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. Sullivan taught her how to read and write in braille and some sign language. With the help of Sullivan, she attended various schools for the deaf, and completed her education on June 28th, 1904, graduating cum laude from Radcliffe College. She was the first blind and deaf person to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. 

Graduating was just one of her many accomplishments. In her lifetime, Keller authored multiple books, was an advocate for women and people with disabilities, gave lectures about her experiences, received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and co-founded Helen Keller International. Her organization continues to advocate for and help improve the lives of people experiencing disabilities worldwide. 

I found an insightful article titled “Miss Helen Keller: The Remarkable Achievements of a Remarkable Girl” published in The Falmouth Enterprise, on August 22nd, 1903. The piece gave life and personality to someone who I often haven’t seen talked about outside her achievements. It showed that not only was she a remarkable student and individual, but she was also strong-willed and enjoyed the small things in life. It was really interesting to read about her from the perspective of someone who has watched her achieve things early in her life. 

The ability to give life and personality to a historical figure is one thing I love about reading old stories. What was to them a simple autobiographical account of a remarkable woman gives new life to her story and tells more of who she was as a person, rather than just what she accomplished. Join me again next week to discover more of history’s hidden gems and timeless tales! 

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