Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today -100: September 10, 1911: Of cholera, conscription, duels, and rude Americans

In two towns in southern Italy, mobs storm the cholera hospitals, remove the patients and set fire to the hospitals, which they believe were actually created to put cholera patients to death. Some patients died in the fires, some died as they were being taken through the streets because they had, you know, cholera, and weren’t really up to a parade.

The French cabinet decides that it won’t release soldiers whose two-year conscription terms will come up later this month if Germany doesn’t release its two-year soldiers.

French feminist journalist Arria Ly (a pseudonym for Jos├ęphine Gondon) wrote an article that raised a stir by calling for a class of celibate single professional women. Prudent Massat (or “the prudent M. Massat,” as the NYT garbles it), a (male) editor of the radical-socialist Toulouse Reporter, then published an article making fun of her ideas and basically calling her a lesbian. So she challenged him to a duel, demanding they exchange bullets “in the name of feminism.” He told her seconds (women, naturally) no, and then organized a protest meeting against her, at which she walked onto the platform and slapped him, twice, by way of repeating the challenge. After a few hours in a police cell, she accepted that the remarks were aimed at her ideas and not her character (although “de-sexed neurotic” sounds pretty personal to me) and withdrew the challenge (although she refused to apologize for the slap), and he wrote a letter of apology. However, a male admirer of Ly’s wrote an article that provoked Massat into challenging him to a duel. They got off two exchanges of fire, all of which missed, then they switched to swords and evidently still managed not to injure each other before the seconds stopped it.

Prince Adelbert, the third son of Kaiser Wilhelm, says that Americans are the rudest people in the world. Evidently some Americans refused his lunch invitation because they had a prior engagement and he, naturally, had never in his 27 years had his wishes disregarded. Two days later another American refused to play tennis with him because it was Sunday and it was against his religious principles to play.

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