Friday, April 30, 2021

Five Historical Figures You Never Knew You Needed To Know About

 Let's face it, there just isn't enough time to go through and learn about every significant historical figure in school. They barely have time to get from the pioneers to the end of World War 2 before the semester ends and everyone forgets what Manifest Destiny ends while playing Destiny 2. Luckily, history buffs are more than happy to bust out people you didn't know existed and how they contributed to the world we now live in.

Here's five of my favorites. 

5: Josephine Baker

An African American dancer, Josephine Baker became the face of the Roaring 20's. Her infectious smile and salacious outfits were matched only by her determination to not be labeled by anyone else's standards. After finding marginal success in the US, Josephine moved to Paris where she quickly became a star, unhindered by her skin color which kept many opportunities out of reach in her home country. She was an advocate for civil rights, even renouncing her citizenship to the US partially out of protest to segregated figures, and was offered to take Martin Luther King Jr.'s place after his death, but declined only out of fear for the safety of her children. During the occupation of France by the Nazis, Josephine would host lavish parties for German officers, and with the aid of some beautiful chorus girls and free flowing Champaign, would obtain secrets she could pass on to the Allies, making her not only a legendary party host but an extremely successful spy. Josephine Baker was a woman who never let others limit her, and had the courage to find a place that would accept her for who she was. 

4: Theodore Roosevelt Jr

Now a lot can be said about his father, the 26th president of the United States, so much so that he probably deserves his own blog post. But Theodore needs to be talked about far more than he is. Following in his father's footsteps, Theodore joined the military and quickly climbed the ranks, becoming a lieutenant colonel by the end of World War 1, and was happy to reenter the military at the start of World War 2. Wanting to be at the head of the action, he insisted on being present at the Normandy invasion and was promoted to Deputy Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which was to land on Utah beach. Due to a number of health problems, including arthritis which caused him to walk with a cane, other military leaders didn't count on Theodore lasting on the battlefield. When D-Day came, Theodore's troops landed over a mile away from the appointed landing place, deep inside hostel territory. Like a dad taking his kids on a road trip, he left the boat, cane in one hand and pistol in the other, and did a quick scout of the area, then declared "We'll start the war from right here! "and began deploying his troops. Soldiers coming off troop carriers were greeted by Theodore as he directed them to strategic targets, completely un phased by enemy bullets and flying debris. This gave his troops the encouragement to do their job and Utah beach was captured. It's one thing to be a military leader from behind a desk and win a war, it's another altogether to be in the dirt with your men and win it with them. 

3: Hedy Lamarr

Okay first off: Bob Kane, creator of Batman, credits Hedy for being the inspiration for Catwoman. This actress, while not to the fame of Marilyn Monroe or Judy Garland, gave the world not only a performance worthy enough to inspire Batman's Feline Fatale, but she invented the frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Originally intended to be a way to keep torpedo signals from being jammed, the technology directly lead to the invention of Bluetooth and Wifi, and she invented it using a piano. Hedy never knew how much her invention would shape the world, and is only now being recognized for her contribution. The next time you are connecting to a new network, thank Hedy for the ability to do so. 

2: Wojtek  

While not technically a person, everyone needs to know about Wojtek. This bear was adopted as a cub by a Polish military unit during a military operation in Iran. Raised by the unit, he learned to copy the soldiers, which included drinking, smoking and even marching. Due to rules against pets being brought aboard military transport vessels, Wojtek was officially enlisted into the army, with his own paycheck and dog tags. Wojtek would eventually be promoted to corporal after a battle where he assisted his fellow soldiers by hauling heavy ammunition from the storage to the artillery without being prompted or specifically trained to do so. He just wanted to help so he started bringing his buddies mortars. That's a good solider. 

1: Edith Wilson 

Wife of President Woodrow Wilson, Edith accidentally became the first female US president in secret. After her husband suffered a massive stroke, Woodrow was unable to perform the duties of office for over a year. Edith, in order to keep up appearances and preserve the president's dignity, Edith became the president's steward, deciding what he needed to see and make decisions on and making several decisions on her own. It's unknown to what extent the decisions made were hers or her husbands, but the fact that a woman was making decisions for the United States in 1919 and she is never spoken about is an injustice that must be corrected immediately. 


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