Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of bringing rabbits back to life, the danger of drunken women at the polls, and Grace and Cannon

Today Minus 100 Years, the Nicaraguan government of José Zelaya executed two American mercenaries named Grace and Cannon, found bringing dynamite to the (US-backed, United Fruit Company-financed) rebels. The US gov. informs shipping companies that it will not do anything against the rebels’ naval blockade.

The NYT editorial page features another of the paper’s hostile screeds against women’s suffrage (it’s clear I’m still talking about 1909, right?). Responding to reports by Harriot Stanton Blatch (Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter) of seeing drunken poll workers, a state of affairs she thinks would be improved by the civilizing presence of women voters, the Times believes that “The great majority of refined, well-educated women do not want to vote. Many of them could not be induced to vote if they possessed the right of suffrage. The idea that all women are refined and that all women exert an uplifting influence on men is preposterous.” Indeed, “If she and her associates have their way we may have drunken women at the polls, and degrade our elections still further, introducing elements in politics hitherto happily lacking.”

Elsewhere in the paper is a report on various offers of help received at the suffrage association’s hq, including a lawyer out West who sent an offer to marry Alva Belmont, the movement’s richest benefactor: “With your money and my brains, we ought to do it.”

The Edison Company arranged a private exhibition by Dr. Louise Robinovitch of the use of a rhythmic electric shock to restart the heart of a rabbit after it was electrocuted (everyone seems to assume the method only works when the cause of death was electricity) (Edison Co. was interested because so many of its workers died of accidental electrocution). An earlier article says she planned to ask NY authorities for permission to experiment with resuscitating the next prisoner electrocuted in the electric chair. A NYT archives search shows that the medical career of the good doctor – who was also experimenting with electricity as a form of anaesthesia (“electric sleep”) – ended rather abruptly in 1910-11 when she got involved in the trial of her larcenous banker brother Joseph Robin (note the anglicization; their other brother goes by Robinson), who had caused the collapse of the bank he ran. At one point their immigrant parents showed up in court, Louise and Joseph denied that those were their parents, the parents showed letters from the kids proving that they were, and Louise was indicted for perjury (unclear what happened with that; her brother did go to jail after an attempt to claim insanity). Anyway, sometimes doing a search on a name you see in an old newspaper produces rather different results than you were expecting, is my point.

Pope Pius said that France is making war on the Catholic Church (the never-ending fight over who should control French schools, the state or the church).

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