Posts in Europe
Anne Frank

A most difficult anniversary approaches: the day, 73 years ago, when today's #HistoryHero was discovered, along with her family, and condemned to death in a Nazi concentration camp for the crime of being born Jewish.

Our hero is remembered thanks to the stories and precocious wisdom she left behind. She is beloved by generations the world over.

May we all continue to learn from her hardship and sacrifice.

Do you believe that goodness can endure and conquer evil?

Anne Frank embodied that belief.

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George Marshall

Most know that this week marks the anniversary of the June 6 US-led invasion of Europe known as "D-Day," which turned the tide against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, bringing about the end of WWII. Many don’t know, however, that the first week of June is also remembered as the time when the post-war peace in Europe was established. This is all thanks to George Marshall.

Though a soldier in both the 1st and 2nd World Wars, George Marshall is best known to history as a man of peace. In fact, he's the only US soldier to have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's that story...

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Mary Anning

Do you believe anyone is capable of an amazing discovery, regardless of class or gender?

Mary Anning did.

Mary Anning was born in 1799, in a coastal village in Dorset, England. Hers was a working-class family and existence was tough. Short of food and creature comforts, the family also suffered through frequent seaside storms. These were sometimes so severe, Mary and her family had to climb out the second-floor windows of their home to escape the flooding. 

But it is said that every storm brings a silver lining. And, indeed, the wind and rain brought good fortune to the Annings in addition to hardship. This luck sent young Mary on a path to both career and accidental fame...

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Laika the Soviet Space DoG

Has anyone ever underestimated what you were capable of?

No one was prepared for Laika.

On November 3, 1957, a tiny capsule rocketed into space. Inside was the diminutive body of a fourteen-pound dog. The occupant was named Laika, and she had become the first creature in history to leave Earth for the stars, initiating the era of human space exploration. It was no small accomplishment for a stray that only a few days earlier had been fighting for scraps of food on the streets of Moscow.

Laika’s unlikely journey was borne out of the desperate need to prove that spaceflight was possible.

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Seyran Ates

To say that Seyran Ateş defies stereotypes is an understatement. For starters, she is a female Imam-in-training, a rarity in the Muslim world. In addition, she founded the world’s first “liberal mosque,” which opened its doors in Berlin’s Moabit district on June 17, 2017. It welcomes followers from all interpretations of Islam, including long-time Sunni-Shia antagonists. It allows men and women to worship together, not separated as in traditional practice. It encourages the participation of members of LBGTQ communities, who are banned from prayer gatherings under conservative Islam. Moreover, Ateş insists that women remove their burqas and niqabs inside her mosque for she believes that "full-face veils have nothing to do with religion, but rather are a political statement.”

Named after a Muslim philosopher who defended Greek philosophy and a German writer fascinated by the poetry of the Middle East, the mission of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is to be a bridge-builder and peace-maker. Yet, it is under attack. So is Seyran Ateş.

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Ada Lovelace

At the age of 14, Ada Lovelace (née Byron) wrote a book on flying machines, called Flyology, and constructed a pair of mechanical wings to help her take off. This may not sound spectacular today but it happened nearly a century before the Wright Brothers managed to get Kitty Hawk into the air. And that wasn’t even her most important intellectual legacy!

The privileged daughter of a famous British poet and a countess, she also invented the algorithm. If Alan Turing was the father of computing, Ada Lovelace was most certainly its grandmother…

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Simone de Beauvoir

A writer, philosopher, and political activist, Simone de Beauvoir inspired a revolution regarding the role of women in society, making her the grandmother of 20th-century -- or second-wave -- feminism. 

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, France, in 1908, the daughter of a buttoned-up, bourgeois, middle-class family, which lost its wealth during World War I. She was raised a conservative Catholic but rebelled against her parents' values as a teenager, turning from religion to philosophy and literature. Her father regarded philosophy as gibberish; her mother worried -- correctly it would turn out -- that it would cause Simone to lose her faith. But with no money left for a marriage dowry, Simone knew she would not make a good catch. So off she went to the Sorbonne to read philosophy and pursue a career instead.

Simone was a famously successful student. Though one of very few women to win a place at the prestigious French University, she rose to the top of her class and was the youngest women ever to complete qualification exams to enter the teaching profession. And on a Monday morning in June, 1929, Simone crossed paths with another Sorbonne philosophy major: an intense young man by the name of Jean-Paul Sartre. She would spend the next 50 years by his side, although the two never lived together, often took other lovers, and had no children. 

Theirs would have been looked upon as an unconventional relationship, even today:

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Helvi Sipilä

If you believe that women hold up half the sky – at least – then you're going to love Helvi Sipilä. Little known outside her home country of Finland, she took her cues from past suffragette leaders as Frances Barker Gage and Sylvia Pankhurst and helped pave the way for the generation of female leadership typified by such powerhouses as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama.

In 1972, a new Assistant Secretary-General walked onto the floor of the United Nations. Unlike any other member of the UN senior management team up to that point, this Assistant Secretary-General wore a skirt and heels. Her name was Helvi Sipilä and she was the first female high-level UN official, ever. When she took the position, the UN management team was then 97% male.

Being a woman in local politics – nevermind in a global politics – was then considered an extraordinary accomplishment. But it was time for this to change. And Helvi was ready to lead the charge.

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Deitrich Bonhoeffer

The study of History most often focuses on the rise and fall of demagogues and dictators. But you can be sure that behind each one there are stories – some little known, others perhaps never told – of the brave individuals who made it their life's work to stop them. Even at their own peril.

This is one such story.

In the early 1930s in Germany, there arose to national prominence a man with very peculiar views. His name was Adolf Hitler and he blamed Germany’s post-WWI humiliation and economic failure on the Jews and the communists.

The country's economic distress was more realistically due to the harsh punishment Germany received for being on the losing side of “the war to end all wars” – a nickname for WWI. But paybacks imposed by the victors were so excessive they bankrupted the country and plunged its people into abject, crushing poverty. This created a witch’s brew of bitterness and pain: the perfect environment for a demagogue – a leader who seeks support through prejudice rather than rational argument – to exploit.

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Antonio Gramsci

Written in obscurity from a prison cell, this hero's ideas about power and the roots of social inequality would change the world. 

In 1925 the Prime Minister of Italy, who ruled constitutionally from 1922, dropped all pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship. His name was Benito Mussolini. And if he didn't like the way you thought or what you believed, he had his goons eliminate you or throw you in prison on the remote island of Ustica. 

This is where our story of Antonio Gramsci begins. Mussolini had him arrested in 1926, not for his actions but his words and ideas. Gramsci's vocal point of view was simply too dangerous to allow him to walk free. He was a threat to Mussolini's power.

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Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville was the outsider who explained what made an adolescent United States tick. His book, Democracy in America, was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Two centuries later, de Tocqueville's observations ring truer than ever.

In the late 18th century, France and the United States had one thing in common: Revolution. Both nations fought – with each other’s help – to overcome despotic, feudal rule. Both revolutions sought to create societies marked by liberty, equality, and fairness under the law. Both societies communicated these ideals in similar defining documents, both made public in 1789: The Bill of Rights and the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen). Both documents led to the creation of constitutions, which defined processes for governance by rotating elected representation rather than by an absolute monarch who ruled for life.

But as 1789 drew to a close, while the US was busy electing its first president, the French Revolution had been hijacked by extremist factions on both the radical left and ultra-conservative right, plunging its short-lived experiment in republicanism into chaos. The chaos was called The Reign of Terror. Frenchman fought Frenchman, their weapons: imprisonment, sham trials, and the guillotine. Basically, if you didn’t agree with those in power, they took your head.

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Maria Montessori

Some people will go to extraordinary lengths and do whatever it takes to ensure that others succeed. That was Maria Montessori's hallmark.

Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori spent her life challenging expectations -- from the sexism embedded in a country and culture with strictly defined gender roles to the prevailing notions of how children learn.

Maria was one of Italy’s first female doctors. She endured years of hostility, harassment, and outright rejection on the part of her male teacher and peers. But she persevered. And focusing on pediatrics and psychiatry, she became an expert in pediatric medicine.

She began to practice privately in 1896. But the priority she placed on learning and education -- inherited from her parents who sent her to the best institutions Rome then had to offer -- was never too far away.

In the 1890s, most doctors believed that “mentally disabled” children were incapable of being educated. Sadly, many young people, who today would be regarded merely as “learning challenged,” were confined to asylums for life. But Maria disagreed.

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Galen

Sometimes the drive to discover and record your observations can outlive you.

For more than a thousand years, doctors from Spain to Persia looked to one man to define what it meant to practice medicine: Galen.

Galen of Pergamum was born around 129 A.D. He was Greek but grew up in Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey. Descendants of Plato and Aristotle, the Greeks were renowned in the Ancient World for their skill in science and art.

Galen's father was a wealthy architect. He saw to it that Galen received the finest education in philosophy, literature and medicine. As a boy, Galen studied the renowned work of the Greek doctor Hippocrates who, already 500 years before, had established medicine as a profession. His famous Hippocratic Oath -- a promise taken by physicians throughout history to uphold specific principles of medical ethics -- remains of paramount significance in the health professions to this day.

When Galen was 19 his father passed away. Galen decided to use his inheritance to follow the advice of his hero...

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Sylvia Pankhurst

What would you do if you were treated unfairly and denied your basic social rights? Sylvia Pankhurst stood up and was heard -- not only for her rights, but for those of others.

Born in 1882, Sylvia Pankhurst grew up in the shadow of history’s “radical suffragettes,” the women who, after fighting for their right to vote since the 1870s, lost hope in diplomacy and turned to more extreme means to ensure their voices be heard. Sylvia's mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, was one of them. Founder of the British Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), Emmeline was committed to winning woman's suffrage at any cost.

Sylvia, a talented and precocious writer, joined the women’s suffrage movement in 1906, at the age of 24. That’s when she launched the Woman’s Dreadnought journal in which she would write and publish on issues of women’s’ rights for most of her life.

In 1908, when Britain's Prime Minister refused women the right to vote… again….

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