Today in History: May 21

The first meeting of the American Red Cross was held in Clara Barton’s home in Washington, DC, on this date in 1881.

Barton had learned about the International Red Cross and had performed work similar to the Red Cross during the American Civil War. She had organized nursing stations near battlefields—a man she was tending to died in her arms after he was shot while she was administering care to him; the bullet cut through her sleeve and hit him—and she distributed food and supplies on the front lines.

Before the Civil War, she had been a high-ranking clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, the first woman to serve in such a position, and she was earning a salary equal to a man’s pay. This was controversial at the time. Her job was first reduced to that of an entry-level copyist, then was eliminated altogether when James Buchanan became president. Battlefield work may have seemed more clear-cut and fairer than entrenched bureaucratic sexism.

* * * *
After flying non-stop and alone for 33 hours and 30 minutes, Charles Lindbergh landed his plane The Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget Field near Paris, France, on this date in 1927. It was the first Atlantic crossing by plane.

* * * *
Five years later on this date, Amelia Earhart flew 15 hours non-stop and alone from Newfoundland to Derry, Northern Ireland. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She landed in a field and was greeted by the farmhands working it. One asked, “Have you flown far?” She replied, “From America,” and produced a copy of a newspaper dated May 20. Like Lindbergh, Earhart won many prizes and international fame for her feat.

* * * *
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated 25 years ago today.

Sir John Gielgud died on this date in 2000. That voice:

Katherine Dunham died 10 years ago today.

* * * *
Fats Waller was born on this date in 1904. Harold Robbins was born 100 years ago today. Raymond Burr was born on this date in 1917. Andrei Sakharov was born in 1921 on this date. Robert Creeley was born on this date in 1926. Kay Kendall was born 90 years ago today. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was born in 1930 on this date. The Notorious B.I.G. was born 44 years ago today.

* * * *
Ron Isley is 75 today. “This Old Heart of Mine”:

Senator Al Franken is 65 today. Mr. T is 64. Marc Ribot is 62 today. Judge Reinhold is 59. Ricky Williams is 39.

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One comment

  1. loisajay · May 21, 2016

    Why, yes, that was me dancing to “This Old Heart of Mine.” As I sat in my chair in front of the computer. Gosh, I love that song. Thanks, Mark!


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