Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 1906, saw the establishment of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, renamed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910. President Theodore Roosevelt took a direct role in forming the organization when in 1905 he invited a small group of college presidents to discuss the danger involved in sports such as football as played in the early years of the 20th century. When the IAAUS officially formed the next year, it included a group of 62 colleges and universities from across the country. Since then, the NCAA has grown in scale and scope through events such as the beginning of a men’s basketball championship in 1939, the establishment of a national headquarters that today sits in Indianapolis, and the inclusion of women’s sports in 1980.

BYU baseball players who have heard they will not be playing in the 1958 NCAA World Series because of a university policy not to play games on Sundays. Image courtesy of Brigham Young University

There is a wide array of collections in Opening History relevant to sports, particularly for local high schools, colleges, and universities. The University of Iowa Physical Education for Women collection focuses specifically on a university department that enabled many women to study, train, and participate in athletics.

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Film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks wed on March 28, 1920, causing a stir throughout Hollywood as they became the most famous couple of the “golden age” of film. Pickford, known as “America’s Sweetheart,” and Fairbanks were among the leading actors of the era, and their marriage came at a time when films were beginning to replace live theater productions across the country. Silent films, newspapers, and magazines like Photoplay offered fans an idealized image of life in Hollywood, and throngs of admirers came out to meet the couple during their honeymoon in Europe and return to the United States. Though the marriage ultimately failed, Pickford and Fairbanks left an indelible mark on Hollywood through their films, the creation of Pickford-Fairbanks studio, and their embodiment of stardom for generations of moviegoers.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks ca. 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

A 1926 aerial photograph of Hollywood, including Pickford-Fairbanks Studio. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California

Opening History offers several rich collections related to early Hollywood and the history of film. The George Grantham Bain Collection includes many photographs of celebrities in the 1910s and 1920s from a news picture agency. The Digital Library of Georgia collection Blues, Black vaudeville, and the silver screen, 1912-1930s : selections from the records of Macon’s Douglass Theatre offers an important perspective on theater and film created specifically for an African-American audience.

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On March 22, 1972, the United States Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which dictated that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” After its approval by both houses of Congress, the amendment needed ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures to go into national effect. When the deadline for ratification arrived in 1982, only 35 of the required 38 states had approved the amendment, leaving it unsuccessful.

Originally written by suffragist and National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul, the ERA was introduced to Congress during every session from 1923 through 1970 and was a part of the Republican Party platform from 1940 through 1980. Still, the ERA has historically been a divisive issue even among groups focused on women’s rights. Labor rights advocates had strong objections to the amendment because of their concern that it would make labor protections for women obsolete. As these concerns waned in the 1960s and the rising feminist movement gave new life to the amendment, the ERA gained the necessary support from both the Democratic and Republican parties for congressional approval. Despite its failure to achieve ratification in the 20th century, the ERA and the National Woman’s Party sparked important debates that led to other legislation demanding women’s equality in civil rights, the workplace, and other arenas.

A group of National Woman's Party members in Washington, D.C., during a conference on equal rights for women in Nov. 1922. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Opening History contains collections related to both the early and later history of the ERA. The National Photo Company Collection at the Library of Congress has numerous images of the National Woman’s Party, its headquarters, and its members, including Alice Paul. The Iowa Women’s Archives Founders collection at the University of Iowa includes materials related to continuing efforts supporting the ERA throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

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An 1813 cartoon hails American naval victories over Great Britain in the War of 1812 in its depiction of President James Madison successfully fighting King George III. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

On March 16, 1751, James Madison was born into a prominent family in Port Conway, Virginia. Madison, who would become the fourth president of the United States, graduated from the College of New Jersey, today Princeton University, in 1771. In 1776, as the nation declared its independence from Great Britain, the 25-year-old Madison helped draft the Virginia Constitution and was a member of the Continental Congress. His greatest political role, perhaps surpassing even his presidency, came in helping to craft the new United States Constitution in 1787. Madison authored both the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Plan, which provided for the three branches of government critical to the political structure we know today.

As president, Madison’s greatest challenge came with the War of 1812. The war stemmed from several causes, including American outrage over British impressment of sailors. As the British need for sailors grew during the Napoleonic Wars, British ships began searching American vessels and forcing deserters and even those born in Britain who had immigrated to the United States into the service of the Royal Navy. There were also tensions over American expansion, as the British helped arm American Indians in the Northwest Territory in an effort to prevent the United States from controlling the region. Popular support for the war was weak, especially in New England and along the Canadian border. In 1815, after several major victories and defeats on both sides, Britain and the United States made peace with the Treaty of Ghent. After his presidency, Madison retired to Montpelier, Virginia, where he died on June 28, 1836.

Opening History offers several collections related to James Madison and the early history of the United States. The Library of Congress Cartoon Prints, American, collection offers depictions of Madison and the Founding Fathers, while the LOUISiana Digital Library’s America at War collection contains primary materials on the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans.

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March 8 is International Women’s Day, celebrated in many different ways in countries across the globe. The holiday has a rich history, beginning in 1911 when it was established by the Socialist Party and celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland as a recognition of women’s rights and role in the labor movement. Celebrations gained popularity across eastern Europe, and after the Bolshevik Revolution Vladimir Lenin declared it a national holiday in the newly-formed Soviet Union.

In 1975, the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day, focusing on a broad definition of women’s achievements in many fields and on the rights of women globally. The fall of the Soviet regime encouraged many countries to stop observing a holiday closely intertwined with communist power, but today some of those countries and many others in six continents continue the celebration, often as a day of appreciation much like Mother’s Day. While International Women’s Day is not widely observed in the United States, March is generally known as Women’s History Month.

An International Women's Day march at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Opening History offers many resources related to women, both in the United States and elsewhere. Writers and artists are represented in the Willa Cather Archive at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the Dorothea Lange Collection through Museums and the Online Archive of California, and the Mitsuye Yamada Papers in the California Digital Archive. Other notable collections include Women Working, 1800-1930, through Harvard University, and interviews with women in Oral Histories of the American South, through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Vermont became the 14th state in the Union on March 4, 1791, but its road to statehood was an unusual one. Settlers other than the indigenous American Indian population did not begin to arrive in present day Vermont in large numbers until 1763, when the end of the French and Indian War gave Great Britain power over the region. Land disputes between New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts immediately began, with all three colonies claiming ownership. As early as 1749, the New Hampshire government had already started giving land grants to those who wished to settle in Vermont. When King George III gave control to New York in 1764, the state sold lands that were already occupied by settlers from New Hampshire, thereby sparking conflict between the “Granters” and the “Yorkers.”

In 1771, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys formed in Bennington to defend the interests of the earlier New Hampshire settlers, sometimes through guerrilla warfare geared at those migrating from New York. Amid the tumult of the Revolutionary War, in 1777 the New Hampshire “Granters” organized to declare Vermont (originally named New Connecticut) an independent republic. The new constitution abolished slavery and gave voting rights to all free men, whatever their race (women would gain limited suffrage in 1880). However, statehood did not arrive for another 14 years, partially because of disagreements that arose after Allen and other officials engaged in preliminary negotiations to make Vermont a British province in the early 1780s.

A Bethel, Vermont, farm in June 1943. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Several collections on Opening History offer resources related to Vermont, including its early history, in particular Making of America through the University of Michigan and American Time Capsule through the Library of Congress. The National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress also offers numerous images taken of children working in Vermont in the early part of the 20th century.

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