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Four Years at the Mount

Looking back at noteworthy historical March events

This month we asked our writers to research an historical event that happened in the month of March. From the National Education Association to Founding Fathers, our writers ruminate on the slices of history they chose and why it is important.

March 2018

Cultivating magic

Kaitlyn Marks
MSMU Class of 2021

When brainstorming and researching ideas for a significant historical event which occurred in March, something often forgotten but incredibly impactful came immediately to my mind. As a child, reading was both a way for me to escape and to grow. I spent hours every day devouring books, short stories, and more, diving beneath the pages and words and becoming a better person, learning about the world, and discovering who I could be one day. Many children, however, do not experience the joy of reading or have an educational or family background that cultivates a love of reading. The National Education Association works hard to combat the achievement gaps and disparities in the education system, especially for special needs, low-income and minority students.

In 1997, an innovative reading task force group at the NEA came up with a brilliant idea: to create a special holiday across the nation devoted to celebrating reading. While many educators work tirelessly every day to inspire children and help them become lifelong learners, it is difficult to encourage children to love reading and to inspire them to seek out books, especially when kids may not be able to prioritize reading over daily responsibilities. Many children in the public school system read below grade level, and this can be accounted for by not reading often. On March 2, 1998, over 500,000 educators and millions of children became a part of the very first Read Across America Day, celebrating books with festivities, creating a sense of unity among communities, and hoping to provide every child with a book to spend time with: ultimately fostering a love of reading.

In order to nourish children’s development into successful adolescents, adults, and working professionals, it is immensely important to create a passion for reading at an early age. Multitudes of studies demonstrating the effect of reading on long-term success and happiness have shown a strong correlation to early childhood reading. During my senior year of high school, I completed an internship in the public school system with an occupational therapist, where we worked with special needs students in a variety of programs and schools. Regardless of the children’s backgrounds, abilities, limitations or struggles, I directly observed the light that blossomed inside of them when I pulled out a book.

I saw the way a child from a disadvantaged, neglectful home life could escape and believe in a world other than that which they experienced every day. Moreover, I saw the power of reading transforming the child’s confidence, expanding his or her self-esteem and assurance of his or her capabilities. As I watched a middle schooler with a variety of medical conditions struggle through reading a sentence, I never anticipated the joy that would erupt in the room as she finished. Her frail fingers pressing against each letter and syllable, painstakingly sounding out the words and attempting to make sense of what seemed impossible, she made it to the end and beamed, realizing that even though it was hard, she could do it. Without her teacher or therapists prompting her to do so, as celebratory high fives were given, she grabbed the next sheet with her readings and started laboriously working through it again. Reading is not only something that is necessary for academic success in the long-term, but also is a completely transformative experience that can unleash a child’s confidence and allow him or her to experience joy.

Since its establishment in 1998, Read Across America Day has become a nationwide community event, bringing together diverse groups of people to help kids understand how amazing and powerful reading can be. While many of the historical events that occurred in March changed the world in huge ways, the creation of a day devoted to fostering literacy and cultivating a motivation to read has transformed the lives and educations of millions of children across the country, and to me, nothing could be more magical than unlocking a lifelong tool and passion in children.

Additionally, the organization provides resources and activities to boost learning and reading motivation throughout the year. During my research, I discovered the NEA’s newest campaign in partnership with United Through Reading, the "40 Million Stories Campaign." For children, a bedtime story is not only a comforting, loving event; bedtime stories represent a curation of books and a love of reading, and can inspire children to love reading even from early ages. Unfortunately, for military families, there are millions of bedtime stories missed while on active deployment.

Their newest campaign works to alleviate this by allowing deployed family members to record and send home bedtime stories that their kids can read and cherish, fostering a love of learning, creating a stable routine and promoting psychological wellbeing, and increasing literacy. The NEA’s continued devotion to promoting literacy, especially since the turning point of creating Read Across America Day, explicates the American values of community and passion, bringing to light in education the nature of reading as a whole.

When children walk into a library or a classroom, their eyes light up with wonder. Contained inside the seemingly endless shelves is an infinite number of worlds, an infinite sea of possibility, and the potential for magic. Like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or Alice’s wonderland, there is magic humming in the air wherever books are present. Unlocking the ability to access that magic is the greatest gift that children can receive.

No matter where a child is in his or her life, no matter the struggles they face, or how tumultuous life may be, cracking open a book and peeking into a whole new world can transform the way he or she feels about the world. Moreover, they are able to experience the joy of learning, the spark of curiosity, and the warmth of coming home to familiar words. Whether discovering the wonders of the ocean in a huge nonfiction book or experiencing the adventures of a favorite character in the series they can’t get enough of, children need reading. Read Across America Day helps bring that magic and passion to every child in America.

Read other articles by Kaitlyn Marks

An American migration

Morgan Rooney
MSMU Class of 2020

When told to reflect on an event that took place in March, I knew I would have to do some research. In history classes, we remember the years and decades of prominent historical events as significant details, but rarely have I considered the time of year important enough to retain. When searching through all sorts of different historical events, I came across an event that stood out to me because it affected me personally, along with a high percentage of Americans: the publication of The Book of Mormon. A majority of people in the United States, and elsewhere, know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, and many know members personally. A lot of people, however, don’t know much about the history of the church and the impact it had on so many American families and individuals. Although I am not and have never been a member of the LDS church myself, I am a direct descendant of many Mormon pioneers who embarked on their journey westward, giving me a bit of insight into how great of an impact it has had on many Americans’ lives, including those who are not members of the church themselves.

The publication of the Book of Mormon occurred on March 26, 1830. It soon sparked one of the greatest migration movements in American history. The story goes that after a vision from God, an angel led a man named Joseph Smith to a hill where inscribed gold plates were buried. After years of education, Smith was permitted to take the gold plates home where the Holy Spirit helped him translate the words into English. This translation came to be what is now The Book of Mormon.

This event prompted the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints the following month in Fayette, NY. In the following year, after gaining a number of followers, the church relocated to Kirtland, OH with the intention to settle in Independence, MO. Because of violent persecution and the lack of support for the new church, the members were driven out of Missouri. This furthered the journey westward to Nauvoo, IL, where the church gained many more followers. Several years later, Joseph Smith, as the leader of the church, and his successor, Joseph Smith’s older brother, were murdered. Violence and lack of tolerance between the church members and other Illinois residents escalated, once again driving the LDS members out of Nauvoo. The members of the church responded by following their new leader, Brigham Young, to begin their migration west into the Rocky Mountains in 1846.

The trail was long and treacherous. Iowa winters were bitter and hard, and the people were exhausted. Many travelled with covered wagons, others with hand carts, and some even on foot. Premature death and illness were not uncommon hardships, and unfortunately, the migrants knew it far too well. By the end of 1847, more than 2,000 Mormons had completed the migration and established themselves in the mountainous desert of what is now Utah. Utah was made into a US territory in 1850.

The migration of the Mormon pioneers led to modern day Salt Lake City, UT, which at the time was a territory of Mexico, beyond the boundaries of the United States. Although, during the first few years of the migration, most emigrants were those driven out of Nauvoo, IL, eventually there was an increase of emigrants from the British Isles and other parts of Europe. The Mormon Trail, as it is called, was used for over twenty years until the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making emigration into the Rocky Mountains a much safer journey. It wasn’t until 1896 that Utah became the 45th state in the United States.

The Mormon trail is 1,300 miles, and runs westward through modern day Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. The starting point is Nauvoo, IL, and it ends in Salt Lake City, UT. This is one of the most famous emigration trails in American history, along with the Oregon Trail and the California Trail. Somewhere around 70,000 Mormons traveled along it from 1846 to 1869 to escape the religious persecution they face in the East. Over 6.5 million people in the United States, approximately 1.6% of Americans, identify themselves as Mormon today, most of whom still reside in the state of Utah where the LDS church headquarters is located.

Migration movements as such affect not only those who endured the journey, but also all their descendants. A very large percentage of those living in mountainous regions in the West have their roots in Mormon pioneers, and as the church has spread to other regions, so has its influence. The religious demographics of the United States would be very different today if it hadn’t been for the migration trail established over 150 years ago. This migration is not often discussed or even recognized outside of the region. In Utah, however, the LDS members celebrate a holiday called Pioneer Day every July 24th to commemorate the arrival of the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on that day in 1847. This holiday is celebrated with parades, fireworks, and other festivities. From personal experience, it seems to be like a second 4th of July exclusively for Utahns. It is impossible to escape the fireworks while spending a July in the state of Utah.

Millions of people today have been at least somewhat impacted by establishment of the LDS church, and the migration of thousands of Mormon pioneers and others, all directly result from the publication of The Book of Mormon in March 1830, an event that changed American history. With many ancestors coming from this church, many of the family and communal values that are held at high importance for Mormons were passed down to me, and also are held relatively important in my own life. If anything, without the publication of The Book of Mormon, and the great migration westward, I would not be here and alive today.

Read other articles by Morgan Rooney

The March in March that Changed the World

Shea Rowell
MSMU Class of 2019

On March 4, 1913, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated president of the United States. On March 3rd of the same year, approximately 8,000 women filled the streets of Washington DC on their march for women’s suffrage. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by suffragette Alice Paul, organized the march on Washington. This would be the first of many public demonstrations in the capital demanding the right to vote for American women.

The march of looked very different than the protest marches we know today. The NAWSA march of 1913 was more similar to our concept of a parade than a protest. For example, the women at the head of the parade rode horses and wore costumes. There were, in fact, four different brigades of suffragists on horseback throughout the parade. In addition, there were approximately 20 different floats, and a skit-like performance on the steps of the US Treasury building.

The march brought 8,000 women from all over the nation in a time when transportation was much harder to come by, but many suffragists were up to the challenge. Many rode in on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages. Some rode in cars, and some travelled on foot. Suffrage hikes started about a month before the parade, similar in nature to the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement. Most "hiked" from New York City all the Way to Washington DC (many of them in heels!). Many prominent female figures were in attendance, including the aforementioned Alice Paul, Jeanette Rankin, who would soon become first female to be elected to the House of Representatives become a prominent pacifist during World War II, and even Helen Keller, who delivered a speech.

Despite its seemingly tame protest methods by today’s standards, the march was violently opposed. As the women progressed up Pennsylvania Avenue, crowds of men who were in town for the inauguration blocked their passage. As the marchers struggled to push through the suffocating crowd, the men taunted and ridiculed them. Some marchers were even shoved to the ground by the male spectators. Dozens of suffragists required emergency medical treatment as a result.

Nevertheless, the march persisted that day and beyond. The government passed the 19th Amendment in at the end of President Wilson’s second term in 1920, finally realizing the suffragist’s goal of attaining the right to vote. This, as we know, was a part of the first wave of feminism starting with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, which focused on female political rights such as running for office, owning property, and voting. The second wave, starting in the 1960s, worked toward equality between men and women in the family, and reproductive rights. The third wave, starting in the 1990s, focused on de-stereotyping femininity and increasing female independence, and the fourth wave, which we are in now, combats the long ignored-plagues of sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Feminism then, as now, was not perfect or noncontroversial. During the first two waves, minority women were largely excluded from public demonstrations, just as the National Association for Colored Women was segregated, although not left out entirely, from the 1913 march. It wasn’t until third wave feminism that minority women in America could approach the issue as equals and introduce the idea of feminist intersectionality, which thanks to their efforts is widely accepted in feminism today.

Due to the progresses and regresses of the twentieth century, feminism has evolved immensely since the suffragists marched through the streets of Washington 105 years ago. From a twenty-first century perspective, it is hard to imagine a world in which women could not live freely, build careers, or run for political office. I can’t imagine the struggle it must have been to establish the female voice as one to which the world should listen, and to enact the changes the first wave feminists demanded.

Today, feminist dialogues present a new array of issues. Feminists have not yet finished the race, and still find opposition as they propose changes that would lead to equal pay for equal work, subsidized (private or public) maternity leave, and the overturn of a culture of sexual harassment and rape. Unfortunately, today, "feminism" is widely considered a pejorative term indicating loose morality and radicalism, and thus taboo in political conversations. Even feminists, however, frequently disagree with each other about what true equality should look like.

These disagreements, while important to discuss and understand, must not blind us to the true gift that feminism has given each person – male and female alike – in America today. Because of suffragists marching in Washington right before inauguration day in 1913, I can now cast a vote in American elections. These inspiring women have led me to cherish that democratic right, not only as an American citizen but as a woman; I cast my vote knowing that many before me could not do so. Because of the first-wave feminists, I can earn money by writing at this paper (or any other occupation I choose to pursue), own the computer I use to write and research, and manage my finances and belongings independent from my male relatives. Because of feminism, I can vote for a political candidate based on merit instead of gender. Because of feminism, I can pursue family life, career life, or both, and be considered as an equal to male coworkers and family members alike. Because of feminism, women no longer have to silently bear the pain of sexual violence in their schools, workplaces, and homes.

I am proud to be an American woman, and proud to call myself a feminist. I owe the quality of my life, my freedom, and the open possibilities of my future to the efforts of the ladies who marched through Washington over 100 years ago, and who kept on marching even when the path to the capital was blocked. Today, it is easy to take the rights American women enjoy for granted, but it is important to remember the struggles of the women who made them possible, and to be grateful each day for the progress they facilitated.

To access my source, and to see authentic Library of Congress photos of the March 3rd, 1913 march, see The Atlantic’s March 1, 2013 article entitled "The 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade" by Alan Taylor.

Read other articles by Shea Rowell

Give me liberty…

Sarah Muir
MSMU Class of 2018

I promise this article is about an historical event that took place in March. However, to get to that specific day in March some 243 years ago, I have to begin on May 29, 1736. On this day a Scottish immigrant named John Henry and his wife, a wealthy English widow named Sarah Winston Syme, brought a little boy into the world named Patrick Henry. To those of you that can’t recall some bits and pieces of American History, Patrick Henry would grow to be many things, the most important of which would be a Founding Father of the United States of America.

He was born in the Colony of Virginia on a farm in Hanover County and educated by his father from age ten. He grew up in the knowledge that a majority of the family inheritance would pass to, John Syme Jr, his older half-brother and that he would have to find his fortune more or less by himself. At age fifteen he was a clerk for a local merchant and not much time later he open an unsuccessful shop with his brother, William. His formative years took place during the Great Awakening, a period of religious revival centered on protestant ministers and the way the revitalize the power of oration. It is believed that some part of his skill at speech making was a product of the preachers in this era.

In 1754, Henry married Sarah Shelton and eventually worked for her father at Hanover Tavern where he began his self-study. After a surprisingly short time, he applied for his lawyer’s license in 1760, and while his knowledge of law left much to be desired his mind impressed the examiners so that in April of that year he became a licensed lawyer. Thus he began his career in law, serving in courts all throughout Hanover County.

Three years later, after obtaining his license, Patrick Henry became a part of the Parson’s Cause speaking on behalf of Hanover County. The case was filed by Reverend James Maury who sought to sue the Burgesses for back pay on behalf of the clergy the passing of the Two Penny Acts (which was later vetoed by King George III). Instead of addressing the matter of the economic damages, Henry focused on the unconstitutionality that existed in the Crown’s vetoing the law in the first place. He saw the action as a tyrannical infringement on the legislative rights of the Colonies. After his impassioned speech on the subject and the jury’s deliberation it was decided that damages should be paid to the tune of one penny. After the case, Patrick Henry’s popularity increased.

In May 1765, Henry won the seat of the burgess for Louisa County after it was vacated by William Johnson and made his way to Williamsburg. Later that year, the Stamp Act was passed and in response Henry proposed the Virginia Stamp Act Resolves. The first four out of the five were kept, with the fifth being struck due to the fact that it was too radical. However, after the newspapers published the Stamp Act Resolves, growing discontentment began to surface within the Colony toward the Stamp Act, the opposition of which would result in the American Revolution.

The Burgess was dissolved later that June in the hopes of flushing out the radicals in the new election, a hope which was unfulfilled as the election merely usurped the conservatives that held seats. For a short time Henry, while still heavily involved in the political sphere shifted his concentration to his personal affairs. In the early 1770s his involvement became more pronounced eventually leading to him be one of the seven delegates to go to Philadelphia for the Continental Congress.

During the Congress, and the Virginia Conventions he was praised for his skill at rhetoric and spoke as a proponent for the Colonies taking up arms against the British, for he saw that revolution was imminent.

Now, just as I promised 648 words ago, we arrive at March 20, 1775. Patrick Henry was in attendance at the Second Virginia Convention. It was here Henry proposed amendments to create an independent militia, separate from those with royal authority since war with Britain was a looming inevitability. To debate his case and quiet his opponents he gave this famous speech:

"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

The last seven words of this speech appear in nearly every history book that mentions Henry. They define one of the pivotal points of not only his career, but of the country. A month after they were spoken, war was declared on Britain.

Apparently, I am related--in some way--to Patrick Henry. However, the only proof I have is the word of my father who once saw the lineage explained in an extensive family tree when he was younger. Unfortunately, that helpful piece of paper has been lost to the years. However, even if I find out that it isn’t anything other than a piece of family fiction that does not diminish the connection. The America we have today is under debate, and the voices on either side are so loud and divisive I think there are times can’t even hear themselves. However, the United States, in the short while it has existed, has undergone so much history not all of it good, but it managed due to an invincible spirit. One that lives on in every person that advocates for liberty.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir

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