Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Today -100: March 19, 1913: Of assassinations and fanatical and hysterical women

King George I of Greece (aka, the King of the Hellenes) is assassinated while taking a walk in Salonika (Thessaloniki), which was recently captured from the Turks. Despite the assassination taking place on occupied territory during a war, it seems to have had nothing to do with the war, and his assassin, Aleko Schinas, is a Greek. The NYT already declares him “mad,” “degenerate,” “of low mental type,” and “an evil-looking fellow.” The Greek government will claim that he was a drunkard and certainly had no political motives at all, but in fact Schinas was a long-time anarchist activist, both in Greece and the United States. Further questions will be cut short by Schinas’s precipitate fall from a police station window a few weeks later.

George I was actually born a Danish prince, but was selected by the Greeks based on his eHarmony profile when he was 17, just shy of 50 years ago. His habits included taking long walks without guards. He was uncle to the kings/czars of England, Denmark, Norway and Russia.

The British Parliament discusses what to do with the militant suffragettes. There was a letter in the morning’s London Times from several pro-suffrage doctors about Lilian Lenton, who was released from prison last month because she was gravely sick. Home Secretary Reginald McKenna insists she was sick because she was hunger striking, but the doctors say she had pleurisy because of incompetently performed forcible feeding – the feeding tube was inserted into her lung rather than her stomach. The government lacked any legal authority to just release her like that, but wanted to ensure that if she died, it was not in prison. This is the game of hunger-strike chicken I mentioned a while back. McKenna accuses the prisoners of playing this game, saying that some suffragettes “pretended to take their food and surreptitiously starved themselves so that they became so weak and exhausted that they could not be dealt with [i.e., forcibly fed] and this for no other reason than the intention of dying in prison. ... to make martyrs of themselves in order that their cause may receive a further stimulus by their heroic example.”

MPs make various helpful suggestions. Lord Robert Cecil, a Tory supporter of women’s suffrage but not of militancy, suggests deportation. Someone asks where to; “Ireland” some wag suggests. Others suggest letting them starve themselves, because they wouldn’t actually do it, but McKenna insists that 30 or 40 would do so: “They are fanatical and hysterical women, who no more fear death in fighting what they believe to be the cause of women than the natives of the Soudan feared death when fighting the battle of the Mahdi.” He wants the ability to release prisoners temporarily, on license, the proposed Cat and Mouse Act.

Aristide Briand’s tenure as France’s prime minister ends after two months, brought down over plans to introduce proportional representation.

Tammany Hall puts out a story that Gov. Sulzer and Boss Murphy have met (at Delmonico’s, naturally) and settled all their differences. Sulzer denies it.

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