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Black Women in the Suffrage Movement (01/21)
A couple of the pieces in Stories from Suffragette City — most notably 'American Womanhood' by Dolen Perkins-Valdez — explore the often forgotten reality that Black and other non-white women were explicitly excluded from the movement for women's suffrage in America.

In the late 19th/early 20th centuries, some Black women ...
Agatha Christie's First Marriage (01/21)
In The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Marie Benedict explores mystery writer Agatha Christie's marriage to Archibald Christie through the lens of Agatha's mysterious temporary disappearance in 1926. Many different theories have been proposed as to the exact details regarding how and why the famous author went missing, but no one account of ...
The Tiananmen Square Massacre (01/21)
One of the largest public squares in the world, Tiananmen Square lies in the heart of Beijing. It's named after a monumental gate built in the 1400s leading into the Forbidden City; Tiananmen means 'Gate of Heavenly Place.' Despite the serene undertones of the name, however, Tiananmen Square has long been a site of political unrest and ...
Jonathan Wild: The Thief-Taker General (01/21)
In The Hocus Girl, set in the Northern England city of Leeds in the early 19th century, the three protagonists are thief-takers. They're hired to reclaim stolen property in exchange for a reward from the person who had been robbed. They acted as intermediaries, using their connections and intimidation techniques to get justice for crime ...
Women of the Wild West (01/21)
The Hole in the Wall Gang in Anna North's Outlawed — a band made up largely of outcast women who have formed their own family outside of ordinary 19th-century society — may be fictional (despite taking its name from a real gang in the Wild West), but history features many true outlaw women and talented gunslingers.

...
Real-Life Forgers of World War II (12/20)
While Eva, the gifted young Jewish forger in Kristin Harmel's The Book of Lost Names, may be a fictional character, the work she did and the risks she took were realities during World War II. Two of the more notable forgers — heroes who saved hundreds of Jewish lives — were Adolfo Kaminsky (1925-) and Alice Cohn (1914-2000).

...
The 1918 Flu Pandemic (12/20)
Often referred to as the Spanish Flu, the 1918 flu pandemic is one of the deadliest viral outbreaks the world has ever seen. Hitting its peak at the tail-end of World War I, record-keeping was poor by modern standards, but it is estimated that some 500 million people (about a quarter of the world's population at the time) became infected ...
Women in Uganda (12/20)
In A Girl Is a Body of Water, set in the 1970s-'80s, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi presents a compelling protagonist named Kirabo who is coming of age in Uganda and learning what it means to be a woman from her grandmother, aunts and other women in her village. Like most cultures, Ugandan society is largely patriarchal in structure. Women ...
The Democrats, Race and the 1994 Federal Crime Bill (12/20)
In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi recalls his adolescence during the 1990s, frequently referencing comments made and policies enacted by President Bill Clinton. Author Toni Morrison famously called Clinton the 'first Black president,' a fairly controversial comment that was nevertheless frequently repeated by Clinton supporters ...
Mathinna and the British Treatment of Aboriginal Australians (12/20)
In The Exiles, Christina Baker Kline tells the stories of three women caught up in the British colonization of Australia and the nearby islands (which today form the Commonwealth of Australia). One of these stories is that of a young Aboriginal girl named Mathinna. Although Kline has embellished on what is known about Mathinna's life to ...
The Johnson–Jeffries Riots (12/20)
In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson describes how, in a caste system, challenges to the superiority of the dominant caste can produce 'an epic existential crisis.' This is particularly true for the people situated at the bottom rung of the dominant caste group (in the United States, working class or impoverished ...
Land Reforms in North Vietnam (1953-1956) (12/20)
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế is set against the backdrop of several decades in Northern Vietnam, including the period from 1945 to 1976 when it was an independent state known as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). This was a time of extraordinary hardship brought about by factors related to shifts in political ...
The Bombing of the Café de Paris (12/20)
Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile recalls how the Café de Paris, a London nightclub, was bombed shortly before Winston Churchill's daughter, Mary, arrived there for a planned night of dancing.

The incident, which killed at least 34 people and wounded many others, was part of the Blitz, a prolonged bombing effort carried out...
The Luddite Protests (11/20)
In one narrative thread of Jeanette Winterson's Frankissstein, Mary and Percy Shelley and Lord Byron discuss the rebellion of the Luddites, a secret organization in early 19th century England that destroyed textile machinery in protest of automated looms taking jobs from hand-weavers. The uprising began on March 11, 1811, in Nottingham ...
Operation Babylift (11/20)
In April 1975, thousands of American troops, civilians and South Vietnamese refugees were frantically airlifted out of Saigon, representing the end of American military involvement in the Vietnam War. The images of the rescue were seared into the public consciousness.

The U.S. government felt that something good had to come out of all ...
Simone Weil (1909-1943) (11/20)
What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez takes its title from the writing of Simone Weil, an influential French philosopher and intellectual whose work was unusual for incorporating both left-leaning politics and religious traditions.

Weil was born in Paris on February 3, 1909 to agnostic Jewish parents. Her family was well-off and ...
The United East India Company (11/20)
In the prologue of The Devil and the Dark Water, Stuart Turton writes:

In 1634, the United East India Company was the wealthiest trading company in existence, with outposts spread across Asia and the Cape. The most profitable of these was Batavia, which shipped mace, pepper, spices, and silks back to Amsterdam aboard its fleet of ...

The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys (06/20)
Chanel Cleeton's historical novel The Last Train to Key West is based on a real event that took place on September 2, 1935, now known as the Labor Day Hurricane (and sometimes called the Labor Day Storm), a Category 5 storm that killed between 400 and 600 people in the Florida Keys. It was the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to hit ...
Robert Capa (10/20)
In The Fountains of Silence, Daniel is a budding photojournalist who admires the work of Robert Capa.  Capa, born Endre Erno Friedmann in Hungary, experienced first-hand the rise of Hitler and Nazism. After studying photography in Paris and meeting kindred spirit Gerda Pohorylle (better known by her pseudonym Gerda Taro), he ...
The Fusil Gras (Wujigra) in Ethiopia (10/20)

In The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, Hirut has a particular attachment to a rifle that her father gave her, a Wujigra, which she goes out of her way to retrieve after Kidane takes it away from her while stockpiling weapons for his army. 'Wujigra' is the Ethiopian term for the Fusil Gras, a French service rifle that was manufactured...

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) (10/20)
The plot of Jess Walter's novel, The Cold Millions, revolves around the actions of the newly-formed Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Spokane, Washington in 1909.

The groundwork for the IWW was laid by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), a union formed in Columbus, Ohio in 1886. That organization's purpose was to ensure ...
The Parchman Ordeal (10/20)
Richard Grant's The Deepest South of All examines the aftermath of slavery in the Deep South through the lens of Natchez, Mississippi. One clear inference that can be made from his Natchezian narratives is that the past must be confronted before it can lay dormant in its grave. Unfortunately, history is often written with its authors ...
Melungeons (09/20)
In Ayşe Papatya Bucak's The Trojan War Museum, the main character of one of the stories, 'Mysteries of the Mountain South,' learns that her racial history is more complicated than she previously thought when her grandmother explains that she has a 'Melungeon' great-grandparent. Melungeon is a term historically used to describe a 'tri...
The Play of Slave Children (09/20)
One of the stories in The World Doesn't Require You is inspired by the games of slave children. Given the harsh and miserable social realities forced upon slaves, it almost seems antithetical to think there was opportunity for play and games. However, evidence gathered from interviews with former slaves suggests that many children managed...
The U.S. 442nd Infantry Regiment (09/20)
In Traci Chee's young adult historical novel We Are Not Free, which follows 14 Japanese American teens from San Francisco through World War II, two young men in Topaz detention camp, Mas and Twitchy, decide to volunteer for the army. Japanese American men were unable to serve until early 1943; the American government had considered them ...
The Debate on Human Rights at Valladolid (1550-1551) (09/20)
For Americans accustomed to the myth of Europeans settling largely empty lands, where Natives barely featured, it can be difficult to envision the New World as densely populated with Indigenous societies. But in Central and South America, before the arrival of European germs and conquistadors, that was precisely the situation—the ...
Social Class and the Iranian Revolution (09/20)
Nazanine Hozar's debut novel Aria opens in 1953 Iran and concludes nearly three decades later in 1981, two years after the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Her narrative weaves together threads from across mid-20th century Iran's complex and diverse social, economic and religious groups. Class ...
Cicely Saunders and Palliative Care (09/20)
In Dear Life, Dr. Rachel Clarke recalls being inspired to shift her medical career from emergency room work to palliative care after serving as a fierce advocate for Pat, her fiancé's dying mother. Cicely Saunders is widely credited with creating palliative care as we know it today. So what inspired Saunders to pursue this particular...
Wartime Restrictions on Fashion (08/20)
rationbook

Jeanne Mackin's novel, The Last Collection, brings to life the vibrant fashion scene in Paris on the eve of World War II. Once set in motion the war had a profound influence on women's clothing across the globe. Parisian fashion was not especially affected, as the novel makes clear, but changes would reach far beyond the French capital....

Forgotten Women Physicians of the 19th Century (08/20)
The 19th century was a time of revolutionary changes in the areas of industrialism, democracy and the sciences, yet despite these radical shifts in society, the general public still viewed women as inherently less intelligent and less capable than men. Revered 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche remarked, 'When a woman has...
Kristallnacht (08/20)
In her memoir A Bookshop in Berlin, Francoise Frenkel describes how Kristallnacht ('crystal night') was the impetus for her emigration out of Germany. Also called 'the Night of Broken Glass' and the November Pogroms, the events that unfolded on November 9 and 10 of 1938 formed the first mass, violent, state-mandated action against Jewish ...
Royal Succession in the Ottoman Empire (08/20)
When we think about royal succession, we typically think of princes, and European history is rife with dramatic steps that monarchs took to ensure they had a male heir. But this devotion to primogeniture, or the succession of the oldest son, was not universal in the early modern world. So, while Henry VIII was upending his entire kingdom ...
The Life and Accomplishments of Clementine Churchill (08/20)
Clementine Churchill is best known as the wife of Winston Churchill, who held the office of British Prime minister during (1940-1945) and after (1951-1955) World War II. However, as is shown in Marie Benedict's novel Lady Clementine, while Clementine supported and assisted her husband in his governing endeavors, she held her own political...
Vichy France During World War II (07/20)
It is a well-known fact that France was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. Not only is this chapter in history covered in textbooks and classrooms, it is also frequently the subject of movies and novels. The simplified picture of France at this time would include patriotic French citizens gathering in secret to support the ...
Elizabeth Peratrovich and the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 (07/20)
In Of Bears and Ballots, Heather Lende reflects on the contributions of Elizabeth Peratrovich to Alaskan history during a community event celebrating the activist's life.

Elizabeth Peratrovich (1911-1958) worked tirelessly to achieve equality for Alaskan Natives. Those familiar with Peratrovich likely know of her role in passing the ...
The Controversy Surrounding On the Origin of Species (06/20)
The publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species forever changed the way humankind thought of themselves and their place in the world. Almost immediately, the public took sides; you were either pro-evolution or anti-evolution. This caused considerable strife between notable public figures at the time, and also resulted in ...
Anna May Wong (06/20)
Anna May Wong was a Chinese-American film star who worked in the entertainment industry from the 1920s to the 1960s. As a person of color, she experienced limitations in the roles she was able to play throughout her career due to discrimination and typecasting. Many recognize her today as an overlooked icon.

Wong was born in 1905 to ...
The Uruguayan Military Dictatorship (1973-1985) (06/20)
The small country of Uruguay (about the size of Missouri) is bordered by Argentina to the west, Brazil to the north, and the Atlantic to the south and east. Military rule began there in 1973 following a coup conducted in cooperation with then-president Juan María Bordaberry (1928-2011), and lasted for the following 12 years. During ...
Kurdish Women Fight for Freedom (06/20)
Kurdistan is a mountainous region that includes parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia. The Kurds' territory was first partitioned between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires in the 17th century. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne at the end of World War I divided the region into its current configuration. Despite its geographic size and a ...
The History of Presbyterianism (06/20)
Two of the main characters in Cara Wall's debut novel, The Dearly Beloved, are ministers in the Presbyterian Church. The novel focuses on the turbulence the Church faced in America during the social upheaval of the 1960s, but the roots of Presbyterianism, a Protestant denomination, can be traced back to 16th-century Europe.

On October ...
The Camel Corps of the U.S. Army (06/20)
A key section of Téa Obreht's novel Inland takes place among the Camel Corps, a real-life mid-19th-century experiment conducted by the United States Army attempting to introduce camels as beasts of burden in the Southwestern territories.

This seemingly madcap idea originated when the army found they needed to vastly improve ...
Women Who Ruled the Waves (06/20)
While Johnny Depp as the stumbling, coy, and flirtatious Captain Jack Sparrow may have taken over from the debonair and swashbuckling Errol Flynn as the contemporary image of a pirate, history is dotted with fearsome females who ruled the waves. They were by no means the majority – it was primarily a male profession – but female...
Viktor Orbán and Hungary's "Illiberal Democracy" (06/20)
In Surviving Autocracy, Masha Gessen places the presidency of Donald Trump in an international context, drawing comparisons with other world leaders who have demonstrated a penchant for authoritarianism and oligarchy. One of these leaders is Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has been the subject of scrutiny and ire (but ...
The Red Cross in World War II (06/20)
The Red Cross is one of the aid organizations that plays a role in Monica Hesse's novel, They Went Left. Because so much of Europe was decimated after the war — phone service and many railways had been largely disrupted, for example — the Red Cross provided more than just medical care to Holocaust survivors, wounded soldiers ...
The League of German Girls (05/20)
The socio-political climate of Christina Dalcher's Master Class mirrors, to an extent, that of Germany during its early years under the influence of the Nazi Party. Dalcher draws overt comparisons between the educational proclivities of the Nazis and those of the book's fictional state, which seeks to establish intellectual, political and...
The Crusader States of Outremer (1087-1272) (05/20)
Sharon Kay Penman's novel The Land Beyond the Sea is set in the Middle Ages in a region known as Outremer (pronounced OO-tray-mare). This collection of European-held city-states was formed during the First Crusade and comprised of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the County of Tripoli and the Principality of Antioch.

...
Cassandra Austen (1773-1845) (05/20)
Gill Hornby's novel Miss Austen explores Jane Austen's life through the point of view of her beloved older sister, Cassandra. Cassandra is thought to have been Jane's closest companion and confidante. The two were inseparable to the extent that their mother reportedly once commented, 'If Cassandra's head had been going to be cut off, Jane...
The 1857 Dead Rabbits Riot (05/20)
In the historical novel The Parting Glass, narrator Mary Ballard's twin brother becomes involved with a notorious secret society/street gang in New York City called the Order. Mary's friend Liddie recalls meeting her brother during a night of rioting that seems to have been based on the Dead Rabbits riot, which took place July 4-5, 1857, ...
Women Spies Who Changed WWII (04/20)
For a wide array of reasons, the Allied countries recruited many women as spies in WWII. Their first advantage was they could blend in more easily than their male counterparts in the civilian population of a typical town or village. But there was also a growing sense that women were more skilled at being secretive, coy, and courageous. ...
The WASPs Fight for Recognition (04/20)
Katherine Sharp Landdeck's The Women with Silver Wings chronicles the experiences of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) that flew planes across the U.S. during World War II, bringing aircraft and supplies to military bases and even training male pilots that would later fly in combat. They also tested out new bomber planes when the ...
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