Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On May 20

On this day in ...
... 1875, in Paris, 17 countries signed the Convention du Mètre (Metre Convention), which founded the Bureau international des poids et mesures (logo at left), a permanent organization responsible for "ensur[ing] world-wide uniformity of measurements and their traceability to the International System of Units." Today -- World Metrology Day -- the convention has 51 states parties, among them the United States.
... 1872, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge was born at Ashland, the Lexington, Kentucky, estate of her great-grandfather Henry Clay, who'd served in Congress and as Secretary of State and aspired in vain to be President. She became a leader of the women's suffrage movement, a leading Progressive reformer, and a supporter of the League of Nations in the years after her 1898 marriage to Lexington Herald editor Desha Breckinridge. In 1917, having just completed a term as Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she published A Mother's Sphere (above right), a pamphlet arguing that the vote was "necessary" so that women could "carr[y] out ... their natural and womanly tasks, as for instance in the education and training of children." Breckinridge (left) died from a stroke on Thanksgiving Day 1920, months after ratification of the 19th Amendment and weeks after she'd joined women across America in voting for President for the 1st time ever.

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