On This Day
1867 – United States takes possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. Celebrated annually in the state as Alaska Day.
Alaska Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska, observed on October 18. It is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States, which occurred on Friday, October 18, 1867.
On March 30, 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire for the sum of $7.2 million. It was not until October of that year that the commissioners arrived in Sitka and the formal transfer was arranged. The formal flag-raising took place at Fort Sitka on October 18, 1867. The original ceremony included 250 uniformed U.S. soldiers, who marched to the governor’s house at “Castle Hill”. Here the Russian troops lowered the Russian flag and the U.S. flag was raised.
The official account of the affair as presented by General Lovell Rousseau to Secretary of State William H. Seward:
… The troops being promptly formed, were, at precisely half past three o’clock, brought to a ‘present arms’, the signal given to the Ossipee … which was to fire the salute, and the ceremony was begun by lowering the Russian flag … The United States flag … was properly attached and began its ascent, hoisted by my private secretary [and son], George Lovell Rousseau, and again salutes were fired as before, the Russian water battery leading off. The flag was so hoisted that in the instant it reached its place the report of the big gun of the Ossipee reverberated from the mountains around … Captain Pestchouroff stepped up to me and said, ‘General Rousseau, by authority from his Majesty the Emperor of Russia, I transfer to the United States the Territory of Alaska’ and in a few words I acknowledged the acceptance of the transfer, and the ceremony was at an end.”
Due to the 11-hour time difference between Sitka and St. Petersburg, and the fact that Russia still used the Julian calendar, the date is sometimes given as Saturday, October 7.
Alaska’s territorial legislature declared Alaska Day a holiday in 1917. It is a paid holiday for state employees. The official celebration is held in Sitka, where schools release students early, many businesses close for the day, and events such as a parade and reenactment of the flag raising are held.
It should not be confused with Seward’s Day, the last Monday in March, which commemorates the signing of the treaty for the Alaska Purchase in which the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.
Alaska Day is protested by Alaska Native people who view the holiday as an uncritical celebration of the violence used to take their land away and a confirmation of colonial aggression.
Born On This Day
1874 – Christine Murrell, English medical doctor, first female member of the British Medical Association’s Central Council (d. 1933)
Christine Mary Murrell (18 October 1874 – 18 October 1933) was an English medical doctor. In 1924, she became the first female member of the British Medical Association’s Central Council.
Early life and education
Murrell was born in 1874 in Clapham, London. Her parents were Charles Murrell, a coal merchant, and Alice Elizabeth Rains. She attended Clapham High School for Girls and the London School of Medicine for Women, receiving an MBBS in 1899. She spent the beginning of her career in various positions in Northumberland and Liverpool before returning to London to work at the Royal Free Hospital, where she was only the second woman to serve as a house physician. In 1903, she established a private practice in Bayswater with her friend Elizabeth Honor Bone. Murrell received an MD in psychology and mental diseases from the University of London in 1905. From 1907, she led an infant welfare clinic run by the St Marylebone Health Society at Lisson Grove for 18 years.
Murrell was also an activist for women’s rights, and was involved in the women’s suffrage movement before the First World War. During the war, she served in and became chair of the Women’s Emergency Corps. She gave public lectures on women’s health for 20 years at the London County Council, and in 1923 she published a series of lectures under the title Womanhood and Health. In 1925, she and Letitia Fairfield conducted a survey of girls’ experiences of menstruation; the findings were published in The Lancet in 1930.
Murrell served on various committees of the British Medical Association, and in 1924 she became the first woman elected to its Central Council; she sat on the council for nine years, until her death. She was the fifth president of the Medical Women’s Federation, from 1926 to 1928. In September 1933, she was the first female representative elected to the General Medical Council, but she died on 18 October 1933 before taking her seat.
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