Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mary Todd Lincoln: First Lady of the Civil War

Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln 
Mary Todd Lincoln was the wife of Abraham Lincoln, one of the most celebrated Presidents the United States has ever had. She was an odd match for Abraham Lincoln in that she came from a wealthy family that, for the most part, sided with the Confederacy. Despite this, she shared a few common interests with her husband that were very important. She was quite interested in politics and she was a strong advocate for the abolishment of slavery. She led an interesting life from being born to wealth and marrying the future president to spending her twilight years defending her sanity and living abroad or with her sister. If there was one thing you could say about Mary Todd Lincoln, it would be that her life was never boring.

Mary Todd was born on December 13, 1818 in Lexington, Kentucky. Her parents were Eliza Parker and Robert Smith Todd. She had six brothers and sisters, one of which died when he was a toddler. As a child, she never wanted for anything. Her family had plenty of money and Mary never had to work or learn a trade. Her childhood wasn’t all wonderful, however. Eliza Todd died on July 6, 1825, when Mary was only six years old. Her father remarried the following year, to a woman named Elizabeth Humphreys.

Mary Todd was known to have complained about her childhood, but there is no evidence that these complaints were more than just the grumblings of a discontented stepdaughter. After her father’s second marriage, nine more children were bon into the family, one of which died in infancy. All together, Mary had 15 siblings and step-siblings. Nonetheless, she was provided for well and had a decent education for a wealthy girl of the time. As she grew older, she became interested in politics, which would play a huge role in her adult life.

Mary Todd met her future husband when she was twenty years old. She had gone to Springfield, Illinois with her sister and met Abraham Lincoln while she was there. They became a couple and were engaged off and on for three years. On November 4, 1842, the couple married at Mary’s sister Elizabeth’s home in Springfield. For the first two years of their marriage they lived in Globe Tavern, where their first son, Robert was born on August 1, 1843. The following year they purchased their own home in Springfield.

Two years after Mary and Abraham purchased their first home, they welcomed a second son into their family. Edward Lincoln was born on March 10, 1846. Unfortunately, in December of 1849, Eddie became gravely ill with what the doctor thought was diphtheria. The little boy passed away on February 1, 1850; he was only three years old. Mary Todd Lincoln gave birth to her third son the very same year that she lost her second. William Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850. Three years later, she had her fourth and final child. The baby was born on April 14, 1853; it was another boy, that the couple named Thomas (he was affectionately called Tad by his parents).

Throughout this time in her life, Mary supported her husband’s career and was known for speaking publicly about his political campaigns. The pair shared the same views when it came to politics, for the most part and it appeared that Abraham enjoyed his wife’s involvement in his work. Mary Todd Lincoln became even more of a public figure when her husband was inaugurated in 1861. You might even say she was something of a spectacle.

During her time at the White House, Mary managed to put her family in debt with frivolous purchases of fine clothes and decorations for the White House. While her country was being torn apart by Civil War and families were hungry and losing their homes and men, Mary Todd Lincoln was spending like royalty. This caused some animosity toward her from the people of the United States. On top of that, her family was on the Confederate side of the war and four of her siblings were fighting for that side (two of her half-brothers were killed in action).

So, on both sides she was disliked for her spending, on the Union side she was disliked for coming from Confederate stock and on the Confederate side she was viewed as a traitor. However, Mary stuck by her guns and worked for the abolishment of slavery and was involved in organizations that raised money to help freed slaves get on their feet. She also worked as a volunteer nurse at Union hospitals. Despite her lack of control when it came to money, it is obvious that, at heart, Mary Todd Lincoln was a humanitarian that simply did not understand the need to cut back in times of war.

Mary Todd Lincoln could understand the meaning of loss, however. She had lost her second son and by 1862, she was about to lose her third. William came down with something that resembled typhoid fever and died on February 20, 1862. He was only eleven years old. Three years later, her husband was assassinated while she sat next to him, enjoying a night at the theater. In the space of fifteen years, Mary had watched two of her sons die and now she had watched her husband get murdered. Her life wasn’t about to get any easier.

Mary moved out of the White House on May 23, 1865. From there, she moved to Chicago and then to Germany with her son Thomas in 1868. She stayed abroad with her son for three years and they returned to the United States in 1871. Tad apparently caught something, on the ship to the States, that gave him a horrible cough. By the time they made it back to Chicago, he was seriously ill. He died on July 15, 1871 at the age of eighteen. He may have contracted tuberculosis. Now Mary had lost three of her four children and her beloved husband. Now, her fourth child was about to betray her, at least that is how she saw it.

Within a few years of Tad’s death, Robert Lincoln said he was noticing that his mother was behaving oddly and that he thought she was losing her sanity. He had Mary tried and she was judged to be insane. In 1875, she was forced to go to an insane asylum. The very same day she was checked-in, she tried to kill herself twice. A female lawyer took pity on poor Mary and fought to have her removed from the asylum. After four months in the asylum, Mary Lincoln was released and sent to live with her sister in Springfield. Another trial was held on June 19, 1876; this time, Mary was found to be sane.

She moved to France after the trial and stayed away from the United States for four years. She returned in October of 1880 to live with her sister again. She lived with her sister for two years and died in her home on July 16, 1882. Mary had died in the same house that she had married Abraham in forty years before.


Mary Todd Lincoln, retrieved 9/2/09,

First Lady Biography: Mary Lincoln, retrieved 9/2/09,

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Omar al-Bashir: Sudanese President Charged With Genocide by the ICC

Omar al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir circa 2009
Omar al-Bashir is the current president of the African country of Sudan. He has been the president through the end of the Sudanese civil war and the entirety of the Darfur conflict. Omar al-Bashir is suspected of precipitating war crimes in Darfur, Sudan, including genocide.

Omar al-Bashir was born on January 1, 1944 in Sudan. He came from a simple farming family. He attended school in the area in which he was raised. Later, he moved to the capital of Sudan-Khartoum-and attended the national military academy there. He later attended the national military academy in Cairo, Egypt. He then went on to fight with the Egyptian Army in the Arab-Israeli War. He was a paratrooper from 1969-1987. He also fought against the Sudan Liberation Army in the Sudan civil war.

By 1989, Omar al-Bashir was a colonel in the Sudanese Army. That year, he led a successful coup d'etat against the Sudanese government. In 1993, he named himself President of Sudan. Elections were held three years later and he won. He has won every election since.

When Omar al-Bashir became President of Sudan, the country was ripped apart by civil war. It took Omar more than 10 years to end the conflict. However, by that time, a major conflict in Darfur had been raging for two years. This conflict arose when rebel groups in Darfur, namely JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) and DLA (Darfur Liberation Army) began fighting the government. These rebels felt that they were being marginalized by the government of Sudan. In other words, they felt they were not being given the same rights and governmental power as the rest of Sudan. They were probably right. Omar al-Bashir responded by sending the Sudanese army to Darfur. He may have sent something else as well.

Before the current Darfur conflict, nomadic Arab tribes and the other "black" tribes of Darfur would fight over land and resources from time to time. There was nothing on the scale of the latest conflict. Nevertheless, when Omar al-Bashir sent his troops into Darfur, a terror known as the Janjaweed emerged. The Janjaweed are primarily Darfurians of Arab descent. When the conflict began, the Janjaweed had weapons all of a sudden and were launching what can only be called terrorist attacks on the people of Darfur. They have most certainly been raping, stealing and burning down the villages of civilians in Darfur. The atrocities are too many to describe here. Omar al-Bashir claims that he and his government have nothing to do with these atrocities.

To all appearances, it seems as if the government of Sudan is supplying the Janjaweed with the weapons and permissions they need to commit genocide on the people of Darfur. Omar al-Bashir refuses to admit it, though it is rather suspicious that his army is not stopping these attacks on the citizens of Sudan. These citizens have been starved, raped and driven from their homes. Some live in refugee camps in bordering countries. Some live in camps in Darfur. More than 2 million people are displaced and an estimated 300,000 are dead.

In 2009, the International Criminals Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir for two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. He has not been arrested. On July 12, 2010, another warrant was issued. This new warrant included a count of genocide. The first warrant is still in place. Of course, like any court, the ICC will have to arrest Omar al-Bashir and prove he is guilty before they are able to punish him. Nonetheless, this warrant should set an example to the international community. War crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity should not be tolerated, no matter who commits them. Omar al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to have a warrant for such crimes issued against him.


Darfur: ICC Charges Sudanese President with Genocide, retrieved 8/1/10,

Profile: Omar al-Bashir, retrieved 8/1/10,

Wyatt Earp: Wild West Lawman

Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp was a famous lawman and gunslinger of the wild west. Much of his life is steeped in legend and has been reproduced into a barrage of movies and books. Some of what we now think we know about Wyatt Earp has never been proven or is certainly false. Nonetheless, his life really was filled with adventure. He was involved in several gunfights in the name of the law and a few that may have been a little unlawful. He was also arrested a few times himself for some questionable deeds. He was the quintessential man of the wild west.

Wyatt Earp was the third son of Nicholas Earp and Victoria Ann Cooksey. He was born on March 19, 1848 in Monmouth, Louisiana. He would eventually become one of nine children born to the couple. He had five brothers and three sisters. The Earps lived in Illinois, Iowa and California during Wyatt’s youth. Not much is known for sure about how he spent his time in these places. By the time he was in his early twenties, the Earps had moved to Lamar, Missouri.

It was while in Lamar that Wyatt Earp first became a lawman; he was made the constable of Lamar when he was 21 years old. On January 10, 1870, Wyatt married the Lamar Hotel owner’s daughter, Urilla Sutherland. She died in November of that same year. The cause of death is uncertain, but it is believed to have been natural. The following year, Wyatt Earp began finding himself on the other side of the law.

In 1871, two lawsuits were filed against Wyatt, both of which involved money. The first accused him of stealing funds that were meant for the town school, the second accused him of falsifying court documents so that he could take a share of the fine payed to him by a citizen. He faced neither charge in court; after the first was filed, he left town. It is still unknown whether he was guilty of the charges, but he did make himself look rather suspicious.

That very same year, Wyatt Earp was arrested for stealing a horse. He escaped the authorities and was, once again, never brought to trial. His guilt in this case is still uncertain. In 1872, he found himself in Peoria, Illinois where he got himself into a whole lot of trouble. He was arrested for being in a house of ill-repute (a brothel) twice and charged a fine. Then, on the Illinois River, he was arrested during a raid on what was called a “floating brothel.” It is now thought that Wyatt Earp may have been a pimp during his years in Peoria.

By 1874, Wyatt was back on the right side of the law. He served on the police force in Wichita, Kansas from 1874 to 1876 and then again in Dodge City from 1876 to 1879. Earp managed to stay out of trouble in Wichita, but in Dodge City, he was fined one dollar for slapping a woman. Aside from that, he managed to keep his nose clean for the most part. In 1879, he left Dodge City for Tombstone, Arizona with his common law wife, Celia Ann Blaylock, his brothers, James and Virgil and his friend, Doc Holliday. Morgan Earp soon followed.

Wyatt became Deputy Sheriff of Tombstone in 1880. He met his third wife “Josie” around the same time. Wyatt, his friend Doc and two of the other Earp brothers soon found themselves in a feud with the “cowboys.” The feud culminated with the famous shootout at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. Morgan Earp was killed by an unnamed gunman a few months later, in Tombstone.

Wyatt eventually left Tombstone with Josie. He spent the bulk of the remainder of his life operating saloons and prospecting for gold and silver with his wife. He died in Los Angeles California on January 13, 1929 at the age of eighty.


Wyatt Earp History Page, retrieved 8/22/09,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who Saved the World

Stanislav Petrov is a man who has most likely done more for the betterment of mankind and the planet (single-handedly) then any other person that is living or has ever lived. His quick thinking and foresight in the face of an extremely stressful situation quite literally prevented WWIII. By not following protocol and using his own gut feelings to assess a potentially very deadly situation, he put his career at risk, but proved that the actions of one man with quite a bit of intestinal fortitude can change the fate of many.

On September 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was on duty when an alarm sounded that would change his life. Petrov was responsible for monitoring a satellite system that tracked nuclear missile activity in the U.S. The system was meant to warn the Soviet Union if there were any missiles headed in their direction. If they were detected, it was Stanislav’s job to push a button marked “START” that would set a plan to launch a nuclear attack on the United States in motion.

At 12:30 a.m., the equipment that Stanislav Petrov was monitoring gave the warning that a missile had been launched in the direction of the Soviet Union by the U.S. Petrov thought this was rather odd because it was unlikely that the U.S. would send only one missile to kick off a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He chalked it up to a false alarm, but then four more warnings came through, making it a total of five missiles that had been picked up by the satellite. The alarms were blaring and Petrov was being pressured to make a choice. Push the red button and essentially launch a nuclear attack or go with his instincts?

Stanislav Petrov still believed that the alarm was a false one. Even five missiles is a quite small amount to send if you intend to start a war. In a matter of mere moments, Petrov made the decision to wait it out rather than push that button. His decision payed off in a big way. There were no missiles. No nuclear bombs landed in the Soviet Union and Petrov was a hero, but he wasn’t exactly treated as such.

Obviously there were many people that were relieved that the Lieutenant Colonel had not pushed that button. However, he had not followed protocol and was subjected to an investigation and intense questioning as a result. In the end, he was not punished, but neither was he rewarded, as he should have been. He was removed from his position and retired from the military within two years of the incident. It wasn’t until May 21, 2004 that Stanislav Petrov gained anything for his actions on the day in 1983; he received a monetary award from the Association of World Citizens. This isn’t much by way of gratitude for a man who changed the course of history, but enough for a man who says that he doesn’t feel like much of a hero. We should all beg to differ with him.


Paderson, Glen, Earthkeeper Hero: Stanislav Petrov, retrieved 11/01/09,

Lebedor, Anastasiya, The Man Who Saved the World Finally Recognized, retrieved 11/01/09,

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hedy Lamarr: Actress and Brilliant Inventor

Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr in Lady of the Tropics
Hedy Lamarr was an actress and an inventor, but she wasn’t just any actress and inventor. She was the first actress to ever be in a scene that depicted female orgasm that was released. She is known as “The most beautiful woman in films.” With the help of another inventor, she came up with a device, the principle of which is still used in modern weapons and cell phone technology. In short, she was an amazingly beautiful and intelligent woman.

Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna on November 9, 1914. Her given name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. She became interested in acting at a young age and began attending Max Reinhardt’s acting school in Berlin while she was still in her teens. She was only nineteen years old when she starred in the film that would launch her acting career in the United States. The film was called Ekstase (ecstasy). In the film she does nudity and even simulates an orgasm, which was unheard of at the time.

The same year that Ecstasy was released, Hedy Lamarr married weapons and aircraft manufacturer, Fritz Mandl. While Hedy was married to Fritz, she was exposed to her husband’s trade and seemingly became quite familiar with it. During this time she also entertained guests such as Hitler and Mussolini. Apparently she didn’t think much of their views because she eventually moved to the U.S. after leaving her husband.

Lamarr came to Hollywood in 1937. Despite her risque role, or perhaps because of it, Hedy Lamarr was picked up by MGM. It was then that her name was changed to Hedy Lamarr. She married GeneMarkey in March of 1939. Hedy stayed in Hollywood with her new husband and their adopted son, James. It was here that she met the man who would eventually be her partner, George Antheil.

George Antheil was Hedy Lamarr’s neighbor. They met in 1940. The two were talking and Hedy mentioned that she was thinking of quitting her job at MGM and joining the National Inventors Council in Washington, D.C. They began discussing radio-controlled torpedoes and Hedy told George of an idea that she had to prevent enemies from blocking the radio signals of these devices. Her idea was called “frequency hopping.” George then suggested a method by which this could be accomplished.

They applied for a patent on June 10, 1941, which was granted in 1942, after the inventors had further developed the device. The device that Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil had invented was dismissed by the U.S. Navy when they presented it in 1942. It was brilliant and useful, but it just wasn’t practical using the technology of the day. George had developed the device using the same principle as a player piano and the device would need some adjustments before it could be used practically. Nevertheless, it eventually was used in 1960, three years after Hedy and George’s patent had expired.

Hedy Lamarr divorced Gene Markey in 1941. She married John Loder in 1943 and the couple had two children together before they divorced in 1947. Hedy married again, this time to TeddyStauffer, in 1951. She divorced again in 1952. She continued acting throughout this time. She starred in nearly forty films before she stopped acting in 1957. Then, of course, she married again in 1963. This was to be her last marriage and it was to Lewis J. Boies. They divorced in June of 1965.

Hedy Lamarr was eventually awarded for her invention and is now given proper credit for her contribution to modern technology. Oddly, she was also arrested for shoplifting twice in her later years. Hedy Lamarr died of natural causes on January 19, 2000.

“Any woman can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”~ Hedy Lamarr

“I must quit marrying men who feel inferior to me. Somewhere there must be a man who could be my husband and not feel inferior.” ~ Hedy Lamarr


Female Inventors Hedy Lamarr, retrieved 1/4/10,       

Hedy Lamarr, retrieved 1/4/10,