On This Day
1777 – American Revolutionary War: After 16 months of debate the Continental Congress approves the Articles of Confederation.
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America that served as its first constitution. It was approved, after much debate (between July 1776 and November 1777), by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and sent to the states for ratification. The Articles of Confederation came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states. A guiding principle of the Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The weak central government established by the Articles received only those powers which the former colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament.
The document provided clearly written rules for how the states’ “league of friendship” would be organized. During the ratification process, the Congress looked to the Articles for guidance as it conducted business, directing the war effort, conducting diplomacy with foreign states, addressing territorial issues and dealing with Native American relations. Little changed politically once the Articles of Confederation went into effect, as ratification did little more than legalize what the Continental Congress had been doing. That body was renamed the Congress of the Confederation; but most Americans continued to call it the Continental Congress, since its organization remained the same.
As the Confederation Congress attempted to govern the continually growing American states, delegates discovered that the limitations placed upon the central government rendered it ineffective at doing so. As the government’s weaknesses became apparent, especially after Shays’ Rebellion, some prominent political thinkers in the fledgling union began asking for changes to the Articles. Their hope was to create a stronger government. Initially, some states met to deal with their trade and economic problems. However, as more states became interested in meeting to change the Articles, a meeting was set in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This became the Constitutional Convention. It was quickly agreed that changes would not work, and instead the entire Articles needed to be replaced. On March 4, 1789, the government under the Articles was replaced with the federal government under the Constitution. The new Constitution provided for a much stronger federal government by establishing a chief executive (the President), courts, and taxing powers.
Born On This Day
1849 – Mary E. Byrd, American astronomer and educator (d. 1934)
Mary Emma Byrd (November 15, 1849 – July 13, 1934) was an American educator and is considered a pioneer astronomy teacher at college level. She was also an astronomer in her own right, determining cometary positions by photography.
Mary E. Byrd was born November 15, 1849 in Le Roy, Michigan to the reverend John Huntington Byrd and Elizabeth Adelaide Lowe as the second of six children. The family moved to Kansas in 1855. Her father was strongly opposed to slavery and the slave trade, and managed a station of the Underground Railroad. Her mother was a descendant of John Endecott. Her parents instilled in her a strong Puritan belief, making her a person of high moral principles. Her uncle, David Lowe, a Kansas judge, who served for one term in Congress, refused to seek re-election because he found “politics and ideal honesty incompatible.”
In the late 19th century it was very difficult for a young woman to get a decent education. This was no different for Byrd and this is reflected in her education. She was a teacher, on and off, while trying to get an education. Byrd graduated from Leavenworth High School. She attended Oberlin College from 1871–1874, when John Millott Ellis was the college president. She left Oberlin before graduating. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in 1878. In 1879 Byrd worked as the principal of Wabash High School in Indiana until 1882, when she left to study astronomy at Harvard College Observatory under Dr. E.C. Pickering. She received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Carleton College in 1904.
Byrd was one of a group of young women who were the pioneers of coeducation. Most notable in this group was probably Alice Freeman Palmer. She worked briefly at The Coast Star in Manasquan, NJ prior to her death.
In 1883 she became the First Assistant at the Godsell Observatory at Carleton College, and in 1887 she was appointed Director of the Smith College Observatory and professor of astronomy.
Byrd had a particular research interest in “fixing positions of comets by micrometer measures of their distance from known stars.”
In 1906, Byrd, at the height of her career, resigned from her positions at Smith because the college accepted money from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, which she found reprehensible. Upon her resignation, she returned to Lawrence, Kansas. She continued writing, and contributed many articles to Popular Astronomy magazine.
During her life Byrd was a member of the Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America (now the American Astronomical Society or simply AAS), the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the British Astronomical Association, the Anti-Imperialist League of Northampton, The American Mathematical Society (Ref. New York Mathematical Society list of members June 1892, page 6.
Byrd died of cerebral hemorrhage on July 13, 1934 in Lawrence, Kansas and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.
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