The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The Girl Scouts

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 12, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 12) in 1912 the Girl Guides were founded in the United States. You may know them better as the Girl Scouts. The Girl Guides were a direct response to young girls being prevented from joining the new Boy Scouts organization. The Boy Scouts justified their ban on girls by pointing to cultural expectations of girls in their 1909 manual: “If a girl is not allowed to run, or even hurry, to swim, ride a bike, or raise her arms above her head, how can she become a Scout?” After receiving intense negative publicity for his anti-girl stand, Boy Scouts founder, Robert Baden-Powell, asked his sister, Agnes, to form the Girl Guides to give young women the same opportunities that Boy Scouts gave to young men. Today the Girl Scout organization is angry at Boy Scouts for having finally reversed themselves to accept girls as members.

Today in History: Emperor Elagabalus Was Assassinated

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 11, 2019 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 11) in the year 222, Roman Emperor Elagabalus was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guard (who were charged with keeping him alive). He had been put on the throne through the machinations of his grandmother, Julia Maesa, who arranged the assassination of her nephew to make way for the then 14 year old Elagabalus. Born in Syria and culturally Eastern, he was not a good match for the Romans. He was transgendered and preferred sexual liaisons with men, instead of women (although he did marry five times during his four year reign). Romans were not opposed to homosexuality, but they believed the only “respectable” position in the relationship was as the “active” partner emulating the male in a traditional male/female relationship. Elagabalus enjoyed calling himself the “queen” and the “wife” of his lover, Hierocles, and this was a bit too much for the Romans. Apparently he also enjoyed a game in which he play-acted “prostituting” himself to men passing through the halls of his residence. As his reputation sank his grandmother (the same woman who had put him on the throne four years earlier) arranged his assassination so she could try again with another grandson.

Today in History: Jean Calas Was Posthumously Exonerated of Murdering His Son

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 10, 2019 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 9) in 1765, Jean Calas was posthumously exonerated of murdering his son. Jean Calas was a Huguenot, a French Protestant. His son had been rumored to be converting to Catholicism. Calas and his wife, also a Huguenot, found their son after the young man hung himself. Since suicide was considered to be a crime, Calas and his wife took the body down and made it appear that their son had been murdered by an outsider, but Jean was charged with the crime and brutally tortured in an effort to make him confess.


First Calas was stretched until his arms and legs were pulled from their sockets. Then he was force fed 30 pints of water. Finally he was hung on a cross and each of his limbs were broken twice with an iron bar, but he would not say that he killed his son. Other evidence in the case, including the testimony of the family’s catholic governance, provided strong evidence that the young man had committed suicide, but the authorities would not be dissuaded. Jean Calas was convicted by vote of the Parlement of Toulouse and executed on the wheel. (The victim was tied to a wagon wheel and his limbs were broken in the spaces between the spokes.) Calas died insisting on his innocence.


Jean Calas’ torture and execution is a symbol of French religious intolerance before the French Revolution. The philosophe Voltaire fought to exonerate his conviction after his death. During the French Revolution, backlashes against Catholics were common during the Reign of Terror including the so-called Catholic weddings in which thousands of Catholic men and women were bound together and drowned.

Today in History: Mattel Introduced Barbie

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 9, 2019 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 9) in 1959, Mattel introduced the Barbie doll. Since that time, more than 1 billion Barbies have been sold, but the real impact of Barbie on the toy market was the accessories: clothes, dream houses, cars and friends.

Today in History: Virginia Rules that Blacks Can Also Own Slaves

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 8, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March Eight) in 1655, a Virginia court ruled that African John Casor was not an indentured servant but a slave for life. This was the first time the courts had made such a declaration. Casor had been owned by a free black man, Anthony Johnson, who initiated his suit when Casor left his service to go and work for another man. Casor claimed that he had worked off his indenture. Johnson claimed there had never been an indenture. In deciding the case for Johnson, the court also affirmed for the first time the right of free blacks to own slaves in Virginia.

Today in History: Wakefield Kidnaps Ellen Turner

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 7, 2019 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 7) in 1827, thirty-year-old Edward Gibbon Wakefield abducted 15-year-old Ellen Turner and married her in a bid to obtain a fortune from her wealthy parents. This was not the first time Wakefield had employed such a scheme. Ten years earlier he had eloped with 17-year-old Scottish heiress, Eliza Pattle, and convinced her mother to give the young couple 70,000 pounds to avoid a scandal. When Eliza died giving birth to her third child four years later, he began looking for another opportunity to enrich himself.


He found it in young Ellen Turner, who was released to him from her bordering school on the basis of a forged note. He then convinced her that her father had gone bankrupt and had fled England to avoid his creditors. He further convinced her that her father could still be saved if she would marry him because the bankers had agreed to transfer some of her father’s estate to Ellen’s husband. The poor girl was convinced to slip across the border to Scotland with him and marry him. The new couple then made their way to France, always “about to meet up” with her father.


In the meantime, Wakefield contacted Ellen’s parents and told them that their daughter was now married, but the girl’s father chose not to try and avoid a scandal. Instead he went to the Foreign Secretary for help and pursued Wakefield with the police to France. Wakefield claimed that as the girl was married to him, her father could not take her away from him, but the French authorities disagreed. Wakefield, his brother and his stepmother were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to three years in prison.


Wakefield went on to become a politician in New Zealand with an interest in prison reform. After Ellen’s marriage to Wakefield was annulled by Act of Parliament, she was married to a wealthy neighbor at the age of seventeen. She died two years later giving birth to her daughter.


Today in History: Dred Scott

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 6, 2019 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 6) in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the landmark Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott and his wife, Eliza, sued for their freedom in Federal Court on the grounds that they had been taken into free territories by their owners and resided there, becoming free. They further argued that because Eliza Scott had been born on a steamboat between a free state and a free territory, she had been born free and thus was never a slave. The Supreme Court ruled against them stating that African-Americans whose parents were imported as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not become American citizens and therefore did not have standing to sue in Federal Court. It also ruled that the Federal Government had no authority to outlaw slavery in the Federal territories. This decision was a terrible blow to abolitionist hopes of restricting and eventually ending slavery. It was only the second time that the Supreme Court had ruled an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional. The Court believed that their decision would decisively put an end to the slavery debate but it had the opposite effect, inflaming abolitionist sentiment in the north and helping pave the way to the Civil War.

Today in History: Adrian of Nicomedia Was Tortured to Death for Converting to Christianity

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 4, 2019 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 4) in 306 St. Adrian of Nicomedia was tortured to death for becoming a Christian. Adrian was an officer in the imperial court of Emperor Galerius Maximian whose job involved overseeing the torture of Christians as part of a purge begun under Diocletian. Adrian reportedly asked the Christians what reward God could possibly give them that was worth their suffering. He was told: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Adrian was so moved that he declared himself a Christian, was arrested and tortured to death.

Today in History: The Battle of Nassau

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 3, 2019 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 3) in 1776, the newly formed U.S. Navy and what would become the Marine Corps took Fort Montagu in the Bahamas. Their objective was to capture stores of gunpowder known to be kept in nearby Nassau but their inexperience caused them to lose most of the sought after stores. They announced their intention to seize the stores before actually capturing Nassau and then waited until the next day to take the town instead of attacking that afternoon. They also failed to picket the harbor. This permitted the governor of Nassau to move 162 out of 200 barrels of gunpowder out of Nassau by ship before the Americans arrived on March 4 to seize the town. They held it for two weeks and apparently drunk up most of the town’s liquor supply. Then they returned to America with their captured stores. The Battle of Nassau was the first amphibious landing by the U.S. Marine Corp.

Today in History: Rutherfraud B. Hayes

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 2, 2019 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 2) in 1877 an Electoral Commission established by Congress declared Republican Rutherford B. Hayes president in an election marked by substantial fraud and voter intimidation. (For example, 101% of eligible voters in South Carolina had their votes counted.) Hayes’ opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote, but the Commission of eight Republicans and seven Democrats awarded all disputed electoral votes to Hayes in 8-7 votes. As inauguration day approached, Democrats on the Commission reluctantly agreed to support Hayes in exchange for Republican promises to withdraw all remaining Federal troops from the south (they still occupied South Carolina and Louisiana) and payoffs like railroad subsidies. The taint of the election gave the new president the nickname Rutherfraud B. Hayes.


It’s impossible to determine for certain, but most scholars believe that without the massive suppression of African-American voters, Hayes would have won the presidential election without the need of an Electoral Commission. Republicans were the party of Abraham Lincoln and had led the push for abolition and civil rights for the ex-slaves.



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