Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On July 14

On this day in ...
1789 (220 years ago today), citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille to release the seven prisoners and limited amounts of ammunition and weapons from inside it. (left, The Storming of the Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houël; image credit) These French acted in response to food shortages, the exorbitant spending of King Louis XVI and the royal family, and the unequal system of taxation, which rested heavily on the bourgeoisie. The Bastille, though nearly empty, was still a potent symbol of royal tyranny. The fall of the Bastille was a catalyst of the French Revolution, and it subsequently became an icon of the French Republic. The anniversary of this event, usually called Bastille Day in English, is celebrated annually in France as La Fête Nationale.
1858, Emmeline Pankhurst, political activist and leader of the British suffrage movement (previous posts), was born in Manchester, England. In 1903, Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel (prior post) founded the Women's Social and Political Union. The group became known for its militant brand of feminism, its members smashing windows and assaulting police officers to draw attention to the suffragist movement. Pankhurst, her daughters, and other members were sentenced to repeated prison sentences, during which they staged hunger strikes. In 1912 she said,
We are here, not because we are lawbreakers; we are here in our efforts to become lawmakers.
Just a few weeks before Emmeline Pankhurst’s death in 1928, Britain granted women the same voting rights as men. (photo of Pankhurst being arrested in 1914; credit)

(Prior July 14 posts are here and here.)

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