Women with the ENIAC computer
Before the invention of electronic computers, “computer” was a job description, not a machine. Both men and women were employed as computers, but women were more prominent in the field. This was a matter of practicality more than equality. Women were hired because there was a large pool of women with training in mathematics, but they could be hired for much less money than men with comparable training. Despite this bias, some women overcame their inferior status and contributed to the invention of the first electronic computers.
In 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, hundreds of women were employed around the country as computers. Their job consisted of using mechanical desk calculators to solve long lists of equations. The results of these calculations were compiled into tables and published for use on the battlefields by gunnery officers. The tables allowed soldiers…
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My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies
“Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President” is Robert Dallek’s 2004 abridgment of his two-volume series on LBJ which was published between 1991 and 1998. Dallek is a retired professor of history and the author of nearly two-dozen books including a bestselling biography of JFK (which I recently read) and a more recent dual-biography of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
For many readers, the brevity of “Portrait of a President” (with just 377 pages) will make it a tempting alternative to Dallek’s full series which clocks in at more than 1,200 pages. Other than the missing notes and bibliography, this single-volume abridgment is extremely faithful to the underlying series, packing nearly all the punch of the two volumes but in just one-third the space.
Like the series, “Portrait of a President” is more a political than personal biography. Readers learn almost nothing of LBJ’s family…
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Presidential History Blog
King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands.
The first sovereign of a foreign country to be hosted at a White House State Dinner was the King of the Sandwich Islands – in 1874.
From the beginning of the United States as a nation, elegant dining was an essential practice. A little upstart country with even smaller claims to “culture” needed to prove itself equal (or almost equal) to the great countries of Europe, with centuries of history and tradition.
This does not mean that the US was backward or inhospitable. George and Martha Washington were wealthy Virginians, to whom elegance, taste and “southern hospitality” was natural. Their “official” presidential house on Cherry Street in New York City, albeit rented, was chosen specifically because its ballroom could accommodate a hundred people.
The White House State Dining Room, perhaps around the 1870s.
John and Abigail Adams were considered gracious hosts…
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Joe Ellis explained the absence of serious Madison biographies… by proclaiming “he’s boring as hell” and that “only lawyers like him.” As previously stated, Ellis’s recent comments on the Framers and Original Intent cast doubt on the rigor of his scholarship- and these nuggets of wisdom only enhance the evidence of his misguided revisionism.
Never far apart
The revision Ellis is peddling holds that Madison and other Framers… rejected the doctrine of Original Intent on its face. The only empirical evidence supporting this notion is Madison’s oft quoted explanation for not publishing his notes on the Constitutional Convention. Once established, the government continued to disappoint Madison, driving him closer to his friend Jefferson. During his presidency, Madison undoubtedly supported Original Intent as he battled John Marshall and Congress for the soul of the Constitution. He feared the elasticity in the Constitution was being abused by ambitious demagogues- Madison wanted the power of government restrained- his original intent.
What have your wrought, Joe?
Fans of the musical “Hamilton” enjoy hearing the Framer rap… about issues dealing with our Constitution. A novel approach that has undoubtedly peaked the interest of the notoriously cynical millennial generation.
Practically Historical encourages young audiences to read Hamilton… as his political writings are some of the most valuable in the American canon.
I do more than rap
Americans have granted power to a most dangerous demagogue… and he appears willing to sacrifice almost anything for what he defines as “security.” Hamilton cautioned his people in Federalist #8
“But in a country, where the perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it, her armies must be numerous enough for instant defence. The continual necessity for his services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionally degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees, the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.”
Thomas Jefferson battled with his cousin, John Marshall… over the role of the federal judiciary, but also over the direction of our young republic. Jefferson long feared an unchecked judicial branch during the ratification crisis- Marshall’s decision in Marbury v. Madison only deepened his distrust.
Keep legislating to a minimum
“The Court determined at once, that being an original process, they had no cognizance of it; and therefore the question before them was ended. But the Chief Justice went on to lay down what the law would be, had they jurisdiction in the case, to wit: that they should command delivery . . . . Besides the impropriety of this gratuitous interference, could anything exceed the perversion of law?
Yet this case of Marbury and Madison is continually cited by bench and bar, as if it were settled law, without any animadversion on its being an obiter dissertation of the Chief Justice. like gravity by night and day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the states, and the government of all be consoli¬dated into one.” Jefferson 1804
Keeping it in the family
“For Mr. Jefferson’s opinion as respects this department, it is not difficult to assign the cause. He is among the most ambitious, and I suspect among the most unforgiving of men. His great power is over the mass of people, and this power is chiefly acquired by professions of democracy. Every check on the wild impulse of the moment is a check on his own power, and he is unfriendly to the source from which it flows. He looks of course with ill will at an independent judiciary.” Marshall 1807