The legend that was Mary Fields

Mary Fields

She drank whiskey, swore often, and smoked handmade cigars. She wore pants under her skirt and a gun under her apron. At six feet tall and two hundred pounds, Mary Fields was an intimidating woman.

Mary lived in Montana, in a town called Cascade. She was a special member of the community there. All schools would close on her birthday, and though women were not allowed entry into saloons, she was given special permission by the mayor to come in anytime and to any saloon she liked.

But Mary wasn’t from Montana. She was born into enslavement in Tennessee sometime in the early 1830s, and lived enslaved for more than thirty years until slavery was abolished. As a free woman, life led her first to Florida to work for a family and then Ohio when part of the family moved.

When Mary was 52, her close friend who lived in Montana became ill with pneumonia. Upon hearing the news, Mary dropped everything and came to nurse her friend back to health. Her friend soon recovered and Mary decided to stay in Montana settling in Cascade.

Her beginning in Cascade wasn’t smooth. To make ends meet, she first tried her hand at the restaurant business. She opened a restaurant, but she wasn’t much of a chef. And she was also too generous, never refusing to serve a customer who couldn’t pay. So the restaurant failed within a year.

But then in 1895, when in her sixties, Mary, or as “Stagecoach Mary” as she was sometimes called because she never missed a day of work, became the second woman and first African American to work as a mail carrier in the U.S. She got the job because she was the fastest applicant to hitch six horses.

Eventually she retired to a life of running a laundry business. And babysitting all the kids in town. And going to baseball games. And being friends with much of the townsfolk.

This was Mary Fields. A rebel, a legend.

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Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”

– Susan B. Anthony

Susan dedicated much of her life to fighting for equality. Born in 1820 to a father who was an abolitionist, who cared deeply for social reform and who encouraged all of his seven children to be self supporting. Susan became active in social reform by her late teens when she collected anti-slavery petitions.

This was just the beginning of fighting against slavery, taking part in the underground railroad and fighting for equal rights for women, especially for the right to vote.

Susan dedicated herself fully to the causes, traveling around the U.S., around the world. And she would face backlash. In one speech in Syracuse shortly before the start of the Civil War, “rotten eggs were thrown, benches broken, and knives and pistols gleamed in every direction.”

But still she pushed on.

She didn’t get to live to see women vote. She passed away fourteen years before the amendment passed. Her work, her ability to organize and drive the movement however was instrumental in change taking place.

Today we celebrate her birthday, we celebrate Susan B. Anthony day, and we celebrate women’s suffrage in the U.S.

Dr. Rogozov performs surgery on himself

Antarctica, 1961.

Dr. Leonid Rogozov is there as part of a small team of Russian researchers. One day he feels weak, nauseous, and pain in his abdomen. He diagnoses himself with acute appendicitis.

Surgery is necessary for him to get better. But the nearest surgical centers are too far away given time and transportation constraints.

So he decides to have surgery in the research facility.

Under local anesthesia and with assistance from a surgical team of a driver and a meteorologist and a man who serves as backup just in case one of the first two pass out, the doc proceeds to remove his own appendix.

He takes short breaks during the surgery to deal with nausea and vomiting and stress. But after an hour and forty five minutes, he’s done. His close to bursting appendix is out.

He recovers well and goes on to live a long, healthy life.

WWII hero Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake

In look, Nancy Wake was glamorous; in personality, she was a fearless fighter. Rebellious in her way of being, she was born in New Zealand, but by 1940, had lived in Australia, the U.S., the U.K., Austria, and France.

While living in Vienna during the late 1930s, Nancy experienced Jewish men and women being beaten in the streets by Nazi gangs. She vowed to do anything she could to stop the Nazi movement. “I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas,” she would say.

Nancy joined the resistance, becoming a courier and escort for Allied soldiers and refugees looking to leave France. “It was much easier for us, you know, to travel all over France. A woman could get out of a lot of trouble that a man could not,” she remarked regarding the work.

She took part in many missions, and her life was in constant danger. At one time, she was the most wanted person by the Gestapo. But was always able to elude capture, a skill which earned her the nickname, “White Mouse.” Her husband, however, was captured and executed for not sharing information about her whereabouts.

Nancy became one of the most decorated servicewomen of the war by the Allies. Looking back, she would remark, “I was never afraid. I was too busy to be afraid.”

Notes: 

  1. If you enjoyed this snapshot biography of Nancy Wake, please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation. To donate, please visit our Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/historicalsnapshots. Your support is much appreciated.
  2. Post updated on February 24th, 2021.

Sources:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Wake / http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/world/europe/14wake.html / https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/08/nancy-wake-white-mouse-gestapo / Australian War Memorial

Janusz Korczak and his children

Janusz Korczak

“He told the orphans they were going out into the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”

Then he walked with them, “his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots.”

Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Warsaw before the war started. Then in 1940 his orphanage was forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. Janusz went with the children.

He had opportunities to leave the ghetto. The resistance wanted to help him escape. He chose to stay, to be with the children, to be with them to the end, to that day in early August of 1942, when he had to convince the SS men to let him go with the children to Treblinka, an extermination camp.

“I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.”

This was Janusz Korczak.

Note: photo is of Janusz and a few children under his care playing musical instruments.

“Janusz Korczak and his children” sources: http://bit.ly/2hAnigc

Hazel Lee, WASP pilot during WWII

Hazel Lee loved to swim, and play handball, and play cards, and cook. And she loved to fly planes.

About flying, her sister described the love of aviation for Hazel as she “enjoyed the danger and doing something that was new to Chinese girls.”

During WWII, the U.S. didn’t have enough male pilots. So the Women Airforce Service Pilots was created.

Hazel was invited to join. And the young woman, born to Chinese parents in Portland, Oregon accepted, even though WASP pilots were not officially considered part of the military and thus received no military benefits.

Her attitude towards work was described well by a fellow pilot — “I’ll take and deliver anything.”

Calm and fearless, she had a great attitude and a sense of humor. And she loved to play pranks. She “used her lipstick to inscribe Chinese characters on the tail of her plane and the planes of her fellow pilots. One lucky fellow who happened to be a bit on the chubby side, had his plane dubbed (unknown to him) ‘Fat Ass.’”

On November 23rd, 1944, flying in bad weather in North Dakota, she crashed with another plane upon landing. She suffered severe burns and two days later she passed away.

Of the 38 female pilots to die during WWII, Hazel was the last one.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_Ying_Lee

The last words of Sophie Scholl

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

– Sophie Scholl

These were the last words of Sophie Scholl, a 21 year old college student at the University of Munich and member of the non violent White Rose group, who were dedicated to passive resistance against the Nazi government. She was executed for passing out leaflets about the resistance.

A mini biography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

Let’s talk about Eleanor Roosevelt for a minute.

She became an orphan at 8. But when her mother was alive, she nicknamed Eleanor “granny” for having an old fashioned personality.

And Eleanor loved field hockey. So much so that as she reflected back on life, she remarked that her happiest day was when she made her high school field hockey team.

And when she got married, it was her uncle Teddy Roosevelt who walked her down the aisle.

And she stood up for equality. In one example, “in 1938, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare held its inaugural meeting in Alabama’s ‘Magic City.’ Upon her arrival, Roosevelt sat directly beside an African American associate, ignoring the designated whites-only section en route. After being told that Birmingham’s segregationist policies prohibited whites and blacks from sitting together at public functions, the first lady asked for a ruler.

‘Now measure the distance between this chair and that one,’ she said after somebody produced one. Upon examining this gap separating the white and black seating areas, the first lady placed her chair directly in its center. There she defiantly sat, in a racial no-man’s land, until the meeting concluded. ‘They were afraid to arrest her,’ one witness claimed.”

And she believed in a better world, or in her words, a world in which “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Source: http://mentalfloss.com/article/59326/11-facts-eleanor-roosevelts-130th-birthday

Susie King Taylor quote about sympathy during war

Susie King Taylor

“It seems strange how our aversion to seeing suffering is overcome in war, how we are able to see the most sickening sights, such as men with their limbs blown off and mangled by the deadly shells, without a shudder; and instead of turning away, how we hurry to assist in alleviating their pain, bind up their wounds, and press the cool water to their parched lips, with feelings only of sympathy and pity.”

– Susie King Taylor, nurse during the U.S. Civil War

Photo source: Susie King Taylor, known as the first African American Army nurse. [Boston: published by the author, 1902 from a photograph taken between 1862 and 1866] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018663038/>.