Angela Davis

As an activist, scholar, and professor, Angela Davis rose to prominence in the 1960s for her work in the black civil rights movement, especially in the Black Panther Party and the black communist group Che-Lumumba Club. Davis’s activism was driven by her background. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1944, grew up in an area exposed to anti-black bombings during the 1950s, and attended a segregated elementary school.

Davis was fired from her teaching post at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1970 for her links to communism, but won her job back. That same year, she was implicated in the supply of guns to a black prisoner who died trying to escape. She was released from prison in 1972, and continues to lecture on women’s rights, race, and criminal justice.

Key works
1974 Angela Davis: An Autobiography
1983 Women, Race, & Class
1989 Women, Culture, & Politics

Sources: The Feminism Book (DK)

The Match Girls’ Strike

In July 1888, 1,400 women and girls walked out of the Bryant & May match factory in London, in what came to be known as the Match Girls’ Strike. British socialist Annie Besant used her newspaper, The Link, to publicize the 14-hour workday, toxic materials, and the unfair difference between shareholder profits and the poverty wages paid to employees.

Workers complained of fines that cut into their wages, and of unfair dismissals. They also suffered breathing difficulties and other health problems because of the phosphorus fumes in the factory.

Bryant & May attempted to crack down on public criticism by making their workers sign a written denial of any ill-treatment. This, combined with another unfair dismissal, set off the strike. The public sided with the workers, and Bryant & May relented. The success of the match girls inspired a wave of similar strikes in the UK and boosted the rise of trade unionism.”

Sources : The Feminism Book (DK)

La Voisin

In a darkened room stands a 40-year-old woman named Catherine Monvoisin. Her figure is lit only by torches held by the faceless men standing in front of her, men who are sentencing her to death by fire. It is the 17th century, where such a death sentence is an unusual ending to someone’s life. But Catherine is an unusual woman.

Catherine was the wife of a silk merchant and jeweler and lived a life of comfort in Parisian Society. She was a philanthropist, entrepreneur, fortune teller, mother, and art lover. But she was also a professional poisoner, alleged provider of sorceries, and an alleged witch who plunged the French aristocracy into turmoil, and even tried to kill a king.

She was more famously known as “La Voisin” and was a central figure in “L’affaire des Poisons” or the “Affair of the Poisons”. Catherine controlled a wide network of fortune-tellers from her position in Paris society. She provided poison, abortion, aphrodisiacs, arranged black masses, and even claimed to offer magical services.

She was so famous that she even drew clients from the aristocracy, who could afford to pay her high prices which funded her lavish lifestyle. Her organization, in performing commissioned black magic and murder by poison, took thousands of lives.

The claimed alchemist Adam Lesage, one of the lovers of Catherine, told of her murdering her own husband, an accusation she denied. It is believed that throughout her life, she might have been responsible for the deaths of around 2,500 infants due to her poisoning. However, throughout this time she remained a high-profile socialite, and her sheer charm made no one suspect her.

Sources: Bipin Dimri

Margaret Sanger

Birth control activist Margaret Sanger was born in New York in 1879, the sixth of 11 children in an Irish Catholic family. Her mother’s death at the age of 49, after 18 pregnancies, had a profound influence on Sanger. She qualified as an obstetrics nurse, which confirmed her views on the impact multiple pregnancies had on women, especially the poor. Involved in radical politics, she joined the New York Socialist Party.

In 1916, Sanger opened a short-lived birth control clinic, and in 1921, she established the American Birth Control League. She went on to organize the first World Population Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and in 1953 became president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Sanger died of heart failure in Tucson, Arizona, in 1966.

Key works:
1914 Family Limitation
1916 What Every Girl Should Know
1931 My Fight for Birth Control

International Women’s Day Origins

Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day is traced back to the US in 1907, when more than 15,000 female textile workers marched through New York City, demanding better working conditions and voting rights. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day, celebrated until 1913 on the last Sunday of February.

In 1910, about 100 women from 17 countries attended the Second International Conference of Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, at which Clara Zetkin proposed the establishment of International Women’s Day, on which women would highlight women’s issues. The following year, more than one million women and men attended International Women’s Day rallies worldwide. In Russia in 1917, women marked the day with a four-day strike for “peace and bread” that was a key event in the lead up to Russia’s October Revolution that year.

Sources: The Feminism Book (DK)

Martha White

Before there was Rosa Parks there was Martha White, who was thrown off a public bus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for sitting in the “whites only” section. This was in 1953, 2½ years before Rosa Parks was arrested for the same “crime”. White’s defenestration didn’t move the country the way that Parks’s did, but she was brave nonetheless. White died on Saturday at 99.

Above a picture of her and her friends.

Voyage of the St. Louis

This month in Holocaust History:

Voyage of the St. Louis

The passenger liner St. Louis set sail from Germany to Cuba with more than 900 Jewish refugees on board in May 1939. When the ship reached Havana, Cuban officials allowed fewer than 30 passengers to disembark, because only they had valid landing permits. The rest had unknowingly purchased fraudulent landing permits from a corrupt Cuban government official. After failing to get permission to enter Cuba or the United States, the refugees were forced to return to Europe on June 6, where the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom took them in.

All of these countries, except the United Kingdom, were later occupied by Nazi Germany, and more than 250 St. Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.