This week in history

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  • April Fools’ Day is speculated to have begun as early as ancient Rome with a festival called Hillaria, where people belonging to the cult of Cybele dressed up and mocked citizens. Other historians speculate that it began in 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which caused confusion because news was slow-moving. People who celebrated the new year at the end of March to April 1st were called “April Fools” and became the butt of jokes and pranks. However, the modern April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain in the 18th century as a two-day event. On the first day, April 1, people were sent on phony errands which was called hunting the gowk. This was followed up by Tailie Day where people played pranks on each other’s buttocks. Pranks, which of course would entail the pinning of tails or “kick me” signs onto your victims.
  • On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams sent a letter to her husband, John Adams, urging him to  “remember the ladies” while fighting for Independence from Great Britain. She wrote, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Despite this letter, it was not until around 150 years later that women gained the right to vote.
  • Leon Thrasher became the first American killed during WW1 when, on March 28, 1915, the passenger ship he was on was torpedoed by a German Submarine named U-2. Thrasher joined 242 passengers on board the Falaba which was heading to the Gold Coast in British West Africa where he was employed as a mining engineer. Despite Germans claims that they gave ample time for passengers to flee, 104 passengers drowned. However, Britain press reported that they did not follow correct protocol, only giving 5 minutes for passengers to escape. On May 7, Woodrow Wilson mentioned Trasher’s death in a warning memorandum to the German government after 128 Americans died after a similar attack to a British passenger ship called the Lusitania.