01
Jun
09

On This Day, June 1: Herbert Hoover and the Boxers

June 1, 1900

Future President Hoover caught in Boxer Rebellion

On this day in 1900, future President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou are caught in the middle of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

After marrying in Monterey, California, on February 10, 1899, Herbert and Lou Hoover left on a honeymoon cruise to China, where Hoover was to start a new job as a mining consultant to the Chinese emperor with the consulting group Bewick, Moreing and Co. The couple had been married less than a year when Chinese nationalists rebelled against colonial control of their nation, besieging 800 westerners in the city of Tientsin. Hoover led an enclave of westerners in building barricades around their residential section of the city, while Lou volunteered in the hospital. Legend holds that, during the ensuing month-long siege, Hoover rescued some Chinese children caught in the crossfire of urban combat.

After an international coalition of troops rescued the Hoovers and spirited them and other westerners out of China, Herbert Hoover was made a partner at Bewick, Moreing and Co. He and Lou split their time between residences in California and London and traveled the world between 1901 and 1909. They then returned to the U.S. and, after serving as secretary of commerce under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge from 1921 to 1924, Hoover headed the American Child Health Association and served as chairman of the Federal Street and Highway Safety Commission. During World War I, Lou chaired the American Women’s War Relief Fund and worked on behalf of other war-related charitable organizations. Both Hoovers, inspired by their experience in China, were active in helping refugees and tourists stranded in hostile countries.

In 1928, Hoover ran for president and won. Unfortunately, the couple’s charitable reputation was soon tarnished by Hoover’s ineffective leadership in staving off the Great Depression, and Lou’s ostentatious White House social functions, which appeared heartless, frivolous and irresponsible at a time when many Americans could hardly make ends meet. As the Depression deepened, a growing number of shanty towns full of destitute unemployed workers sprang up in city centers; they became known as “Hoovervilles.”

“Future President Hoover caught in Boxer Rebellion,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=640 [accessed Jun 1, 2009]

On This Day

0193 – The Roman Emperor, Marcus Didius, was murdered in his palace.

1533 – Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s new queen, was crowned.

1792 – Kentucky became the 15th state of the U.S.

1796 – Tennessee became the 16th state of the U.S.

1861 – The first skirmish of the U.S. Civil War took place at the Fairfax Court House, Virginia.

1915 – Germany conducted the first zeppelin air raid over England.

1935 – The Ingersoll-Waterbury Company reported that it had produced 2.5 million Mickey Mouse watches during its 2-year association with Disney.

1941 – The German Army completed the capture of Crete as the Allied evacuation ended.

1963 – Governor George Wallace vowed to defy an injunction that ordered the integration of the University of Alabama.

1968 – Helen Keller died. She had been deaf and blind since the age of 18 months. During her life she learned to speak, ride horses, and the waltz. She also graduated from Radcliffe cum laude.

1980 – Cable News Network (CNN) made its debut as the first all-news station.

2008 – The Phoenix Mars Lander became the first NASA spacecraft to scoop Martian soil.

June 1, 1977

Soviets charge Shcharansky with treason

The Soviet government charges Anatoly Shcharansky, a leader among Jewish dissidents and human rights activists in Russia, with the crime of treason. The action was viewed by many in the West as a direct challenge to President Jimmy Carter’s new foreign policy emphasis on human rights and his criticism of Soviet repression.

Shcharansky, a 29-year-old computer expert, had been a leading figure in the so-called “Helsinki group” in the Soviet Union. This group came into existence in 1975, after the signing of the European Security Act. The European Security Act, also referred to as the Helsinki Accords, was the result of U.S. and Soviet efforts to reinvigorate the spirit of dÝtente. The two nations called 35 other countries together to discuss a variety of topics, and the final agreements signed at the meeting included guidelines for human rights. Although the Soviets signed the act, Jewish dissidents in Russia complained that their rights continued to be violated, particularly their right to emigrate. These Jewish dissidents and other human rights activists in the Soviet Union came together to form the Helsinki group, which was designed to monitor Russian respect of the 1975 act. Shcharansky was one of the best known of this group, particularly because of his flair for sparking public interest in human rights violations in Russia. President Carter used the situation of Russian Jews as an example of the human rights violations he wished to curtail when he came into office in 1977. The Soviets responded with a series of arrests of Helsinki group leaders and the deportation of others. Shcharansky, the most vociferous of the group, came in for the harshest treatment. In June 1977, he was charged with treason, specifically with accepting funds from the CIA in order to create dissension in the Soviet Union. After a perfunctory trial, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was finally released in February 1986, when he and four other prisoners were exchanged for four Soviet spies who had been held in the West.

Shcharansky’s arrest and imprisonment elicited a good deal of criticism from the American people and government, but the criticism seemed merely to harden the Soviet position. It was not until after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, promising a freer political atmosphere in the Soviet Union, that Shchransky and other political dissidents, such as Andrei Sakharov, were freed from prison and internal exile. Despite the relatively freer atmosphere of the Gorbachev years, members of the Helsinki group, as well as other Soviet dissidents, continued to press for greater democratic freedom and human rights right up to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“Soviets charge Shcharansky with treason,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2685 [accessed Jun 1, 2009]

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