On this day:
1907 – Bubonic plague breaks out in San Francisco.
The San Francisco plague of 1900–1904 was an epidemic of bubonic plague centered on San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was the first plague epidemic in the continental United States. The epidemic was recognized by medical authorities in March 1900, but its existence was denied for more than two years by Henry Gage, the Governor of California. His denial was based on business reasons: the wish to keep the reputations of San Francisco and California clean and to prevent the loss of revenue from trade stopped by quarantine. The failure to act quickly may have allowed the disease to establish itself among local animal populations. Federal authorities worked to build a case to prove that there was a major medical health problem, and they isolated the affected area. Proof that an epidemic was occurring served to undermine the credibility of Gage, and he lost the governorship in the 1902 elections. The new governor, George Pardee, quietly implemented a medical solution and the epidemic was stopped in 1904. There were 121 cases identified, including 113 deaths.
After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, much of urban San Francisco was destroyed by fire, including all of the Chinatown district. The process of rebuilding began immediately but took several years. While reconstruction was in full swing, a second plague epidemic hit San Francisco in May and August 1907 but it was not centered in Chinatown. Rather, cases occurred randomly throughout the city; a few more cases were identified across the bay in Oakland. San Francisco’s politicians and press reacted very differently this time: they wanted the problem solved speedily. Health authorities worked quickly to assess and eradicate the disease. To control one of the disease’s vectors, some $2 million was spent between 1907 and 1911 to kill as many rats as possible in the city. By the end of the second plague outbreak in June 1908, 160 more cases had been identified, including 78 deaths, a much lower mortality rate than 1900–1904. This time, all of the infected people were Caucasian. Shortly thereafter, the California ground squirrel was identified as another vector of the disease. The initial denial and obstructionist response to the 1900 infection may have allowed the pathogen to gain its first toehold in North America, from which it spread sporadically to other states in the form of sylvatic plague (rural plague), though it is possible the squirrel population infection predated 1900.
Born on this day:
1818 – Amelia Bloomer, American journalist and activist (d. 1894)
Amelia Bloomer (May 27, 1818 – December 30, 1894) was an American women’s rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women’s clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy.
Amelia Bloomer was born in 1818 in Homer, New York. Bloomer came from a family of modest means and received only a few years of formal education in the local district school. After a brief stint as a school teacher at the age of 17, she decided to relocate, and moved in with her newly married sister Elvira, then living in Waterloo. Within a year she had moved into the home of the Oren Chamberlain family to act as the live-in governess for their three youngest children.
When she was 22, she married attorney Dexter Bloomer who encouraged her to write for his New York newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier.
She spent her early years in Cortland County, New York. Bloomer and her family moved to Iowa in 1852. She died at Council Bluffs, Iowa. She is commemorated together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Ross Tubman in the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church on July 20. Her home at Seneca Falls, New York, known as the Amelia Bloomer House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
In 1848, Bloomer attended the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention. The following year, she began editing the first newspaper for women, The Lily. It was published biweekly from 1849 until 1853. The newspaper began as a temperance journal, but came to have a broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, particularly when under the influence of activist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Bloomer felt that because women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform. Originally, The Lily was to be for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848, and eventually had a circulation of over 4,000. The paper encountered several obstacles early on, and the Society’s enthusiasm died out. Bloomer felt a commitment to publish and assumed full responsibility for editing and publishing the paper. Originally, the title page had the legend “Published by a committee of ladies.” But after 1850 – only Bloomer’s name appeared on the masthead. This newspaper was a model for later periodicals focused on women’s suffrage.
Bloomer described her experience as the first woman to own, operate and edit a news vehicle for women:
It was a needed instrument to spread abroad the truth of a new gospel to woman, and I could not withhold my hand to stay the work I had begun. I saw not the end from the beginning and dreamed where to my propositions to society would lead me.
In her publication, Bloomer promoted a change in dress standards for women that would be less restrictive in regular activities.
The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.
In 1851, New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (aka Libby Miller) adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, like women’s trousers worn in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest. The costume was worn publicly by actress Fanny Kemble. Miller displayed her new clothing to Stanton, her cousin, who found it sensible and becoming, and adopted it immediately. In this garb Stanton visited Bloomer, who began to wear the costume and promote it enthusiastically in her magazine. Articles on the clothing trend were picked up in The New York Tribune. More women wore the fashion which was promptly dubbed The Bloomer Costume or “Bloomers”. However, the Bloomers were subjected to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, saying that a new invention, the crinoline, was a sufficient reform that she could return to conventional dress.
Bloomer remained a suffrage pioneer and writer throughout her life, writing for a wide array of periodicals. Although Bloomer was far less famous than some other suffragettes, she made many significant contributions to the women’s movement — particularly concerning dress reform and the temperance movement. Bloomer led suffrage campaigns in Nebraska and Iowa, and served as president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 until 1873.
Amelia Bloomer List
Main article: Amelia Bloomer Project
Since 2002, the American Library Association has produced an annual Amelia Bloomer List of recently published books with significant feminist content for younger readers.
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