55 Pictures In History That Tell Remarkable Stories
By Sarah Norman | August 31, 2023
The 12 Russian snipers responsible for the deaths of 775 German soldiers during World War II, 1945.
Looking through the long arc of time it’s easy to see the big moments, the major wins and losses, but it’s the small stories and characters who slip through the cracks of the history books that are the most interesting. Theirs are the stories that feel the most human, and provide context for grand historical moments that feel more like stories in a book than something that actually happened.
These photos tell the history of people who rose to the occasion to make a change for the better, and who stood up for themselves when faced with impending doom. Whether you’re interesting in clandestine coverage of D-Day, or what presidents were like when they were growing up there’s something here to interest you. Get comfy, there’s a lot to learn. Keep reading.
These gals are something straight out of a Tarantino movie - a troop of highly skilled female assassins that area a thorn in the side of the Nazis, they look good and they shoot even better. While the American forces kept female participation in World War II to a minimum, over 2000 women were trained as sharpshooters in the Soviet Army and sent to some of the most dangerous areas of the war.
After the war, sharpshooter Lyudmila “Lady Death” Pavlichenko bragged, “We mowed down Hitlerites like ripe grain.” Pavlichenko was pulled from field duty after a blast of shrapnel hit her in the face, but in one year she took out 309 German soldiers, including 36 enemy snipers.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, there were many heroic feats that can now only be celebrated. This image is one of them, as a journalist is seen running across a bridge in order to rescue a baby
What does it take to be a hero? Are people born into bravery or is it something that strikes us when we least expect it. This photo shows an ordinary person doing his best to save one life during a tumultuous time in Spain. He could have easily turned a blind eye to a child in danger but instead he ran into the fray to save the life of someone he didn’t even know.
The Spanish Civil War pushed nearly 4,000 children out of Spain, sending them to live as refugees in England and France. The children lived in camps and didn’t return home until 1938 at the least. Even then, many of them lived in the ruins of bombed out buildings.
Princess Diana shaking hands with one of the residents of Casey House, an AIDS hospice, in Toronto, Canada.
Throughout her tenure as a member of the royal family Princess Diani lent her name to many groups and causes that needed someone to vouch for them and to put them into the spotlight. Known as the “People’s Princess” she was a tireless advocator for gay rights and she was passionate about finding a cure of the HIV virus. In 2017 Prince Harry discussed his mother’s work with the LGTBQ community:
When, that April, she shook the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV, in front of the cameras, she knew exactly what she was doing. She was using her position as Princess of Wales, the most famous woman in the world, to challenge everyone to educate themselves, to find their compassion, and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.
In 1971, 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke dropped 10,000 feet from an airplane into the Amazon rain forest. She spent the next 11 days alone in the Amazon jungle before being rescued by a logging team.
Every traveler’s worst fear - falling from a plane into a mysterious new land. Juliane Koepcke lived this story in 1971 when she was flying aboard LANSA Flight 508 over the Amazon when the plane went down on Christmas Eve. As Koepcke tells it everyhing was going fine until the plane encountered a thunderstorm, lighting struck the plane’s motor and the plane broke apart.
Koepcke survived a 10,000 foot fall into the Peruvian jungle with a concussion, a broken collarbone and deep gash on her calf. For the next 11 days she fought for survival as she followed a stream to civilization. On the ninth day she found a small village of indigenous people who took her in and nursed her wounds. Days later she was finally reunited with her father.
Race organizers attempt to stop Kathrine Switzer from competing in the Boston Marathon. She became the first woman to finish the race, 1967
The organizers behind the Boston Marathon really didn’t want Kathrine Switzer to run in their race, but she was an athlete that wanted to be a part of something that shouldn’t have been exclusive so she did what she had to do to be a part o the race. To prep for the race she trained with the Syracuse men's team, and even though organizers believed that women weren’t physically able to run 26.2 miles she proved them wrong.
Initially Switzer disguised herself as a man to get into the race, but as soon as the organizers realized she was a woman they tried to physically drag her off the course. Switzer remembers:
At the time of the race, I was terrified, since [the race official] came out of the blue, and tried to push me off, grab my bib, screaming and cursing at me. But as you can see in the picture, my boyfriend decked him, while behind him, my coach was yelling at him, ‘leave her alone, let her finish.’ I only wanted to run.
Eight year-old Samuel Reshevsky defeating several chess masters at once in 1920.
To be a chess master is to see things that other people simply cannot see. When you look at a chess board you see the near infinite amount of moves that are available to you, you see what your opponent is going to do, and most of all you see exactly how you’re going to win. Samuel Reshevsky was a Polish born chess master who astounded the world with his playing as a child.
He wasn’t just some flash in the pan prodigy, Reshevsky dominated the sport for four decades, but he’s most remembered as the little boy with blonde curls in a sailor suit who destroyed every chess player that got in his way.
During WWII, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol covered more than 3,700 miles of coast and employed about 24,000 men.
While they don’t the same amount of accolades as the Navy and they aren’t portrayed in nearly as many movies as the Marines, the Coast Guard is an important branch of the U.S. military that takes care that maritime law is being followed at all times. They do this without benefitting from the defense budget - technically they’re under the department of transportation - but that doesn’t stop them from doing a bang up job. Rear Admiral R. R. Waesche summed up the life of the Coast Guard succinctly:
The cat with nine lives is a piker compared to the Coast Guard. You can kick this old service around, tear it to pieces, scream from the house-tops that it is worthless, ought to be abolished or transferred to the Navy, have the people in it fighting among themselves and working at cross purposes and it bobs up serenely bigger and stronger than ever.
Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila won the gold medal at the Rome Olympics, on bare feet. (1960)
Today runners who make it to the Olympic Games are doing so with a stack of endorsements from different shoe companies, clothing magnates, and even different kinds of socks. That’s all well and good but all the endorsements in the world won’t make you a gold medal runner. In 1960, 28 year-old Abebe Bikila proved that you don’t need fancy shoes to win a race when he took home the gold in the Olympic marathon.
Not only was he the first person to win the race in the modern era sans shoes, but he was the first East African to win a medal. Eventually he was able to nab a shoe sponsorship, and four years later he won another gold medal.
Al Capone's free soup kitchen, Chicago, 1931 (colorized photo)
In the 1920 and early ‘30s Al Capone was one of the most successful businessmen in America, it’s just that his business wasn’t on the up and up. His empire was built on a bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operation that fed into his violent nature. In 1929 he ordered the deaths of seven of his rivals during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
While he was ruling Chicago with an iron hand he was using the other palm to hand out food to the city’s less fortunate. His soup kitchen served 350 loaves of bread, 100 dozen rolls, 50 pounds of sugar and 30 pounds of coffee a day.
Five Australian former POWs catch up on news, after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, Sep 1945
In the midst of battle anyone who’s captured by enemy soldiers become prisoners of war. These brave soldiers are usually given poor rations, they’re broken down mentally, and they’re cut off from everyone they know. They form a deep bond with one another and use their few friends to help them get through the years that they could possibly spend in the camp.
Throughout World War II more than 30,000 Australian soldiers were taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese. Imprisoned in countries across Asia, by the end of the war only 13,872 of the POWs were released. The rest passed away during their internment.
Upon release many of the man have trouble readjusting to normal life. Not only have they been living a meager existence, but so much has changed that it’s hard to wrap ones head around the new world.
All ten of the Lusenko brothers fought in World War II and they all survived, here they are at a reunion in 1982.
After Pearl Harbor, when America was called to take their armed forces to the eastern hemisphere and join forces with the Allies many brave men gave up everything to be a part of the cause. Many of them didn’t come back from wherever they were stationed, be in Germany, Japan, or somewhere in between. This makes it all the more fascinating that 10 brothers managed to enlist and survive the ordeal that claimed the lives of so many other people. Were they just a lucky family? Or was there something else at play with the Lusenkos? Whatever the case their mother must have been overwhelmed with happiness to have them all return home safely.
An arctic explorer offers canned milk to a nursing polar bear, while a cub plays with his leg (Russia, 1980)
During the Cold War Russian soldiers were portrayed as cold, heartless beings that were closer to automatons than people. Look to movies like Rocky IV and Red Dawn for proof, but in reality they’re just people. Of course it makes sense for Russian soldiers to empathize with polar bears who are freezing in the severe climate of the Chuckchi Peninsula.
Luckily for the bears, Russian soldiers had a nearly endless supply of condensed milk. The milk, or sgushchennoye moloko if you’re nasty, has an incredibly long shelf life and it was one of the items that wasn’t affected by rationing. If the Russian army utilizes a secret polar bear division now you know how they trained them.
These brothers from West Virginia fought on different sides of the Civil War. Both survived and posed for this photograph in 1910.
During the bloodies conflict on American soil some 600,000 soldiers took their last breath while fighting for the Union or the Confederacy, and in some cases the battles would see brother fighting brother. Family members who lived in states that bordered the Mason-Dixon Line were often split on which army to fight for, which lead to more than disagreements around the dinner table.
A complex and multi-layered conflict, it’s not easy to understand why two people who were so close could feel so differently about the tensions between the north and south that boiled over into an all consuming battle. Still, it’s heartwarming to see that these two brothers survived and were able to put aside their differences for a photo.
Eleanor Roosevelt with the .22 Smith and Wesson she frequently carried in lieu of Secret Service protection.
Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t the kind of person to listen when someone told her “no.” While her husband was busy being president, Roosevelt was taking part in her many service projects that often took her out of Washington D.C. Rather than take a secret service escort she opted to drive herself, and she learned how to use a pistol for protection.
This kind of steadfastness was new for a First Lady. Not only was it odd for a woman to pack heat at the time but it was even more strange for the wife of the president to do it. But Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t like other women, and since she lived for 78 long years it’s clear that nobody messed with her.
Newly liberated survivors of Buchenwald concentration camp and Jewish U.S. Army soldiers who helped liberate the camp meet for the first day of Shavuot religious service. (1945)
Following the siege of Buchenwald, when the concentration camp was freed by U.S. soldiers in 1945 the Jewish service members and the men and women who survived the camp took part in a prayer service that united the survivors with the very people who saved them. The rabbi leading the service was Herschel Schacter, then only 27-years-old, and he did so with no Torah and nothing but a lectern. He wrote:
I walked into the Kinohalle on Friday evening and there were at least 1000 people packed to the rafters. I got up on a small platform. I had a little G.I. prayer shawl and started with ‘Shalom Aleichem’ and slowly but steadily we were singing and praying. I had no prayer book. I had nothing other than my voice.
Sir Roger Bannister was the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, May 6, 1954.
The four minute mile is still something that we think about. It’s a sportsman’s right of passage, and it’s a time that we weigh many things against. Even though modern runners are taking the mile at around 3:43, it took until May 6, 1954 for Bannister to hit the mark that everyone thinks of now.
On that dreary Oxford day, Bannister ran the mile infant of 1,200 people as he trained to run against Oxford University. After running the mile in under four minutes - a feat which had never been accomplished - Bannister quit competitive running to become a neurologist. He was knighted in 1975 and passed away in 2018 at the age of 88.
The Rockford Peaches, an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) founded in 1943, and the inspiration for the film "A League of Their Own".
Most people know the Rockford Peaches as the main characters of A League of Their Own, but those gals were the real deal. Aside from just being a team of gals they were one of the best teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and they took home four titles between 1945 and 1950. The peaches were from Rockford, Illinois, and as a part of the AAGPBL they played to hundreds of thousands of people at the league’s peak.
The band was one of the most theatrical groups of the AAGPBL, and former player Eileen Burmeister explained that the group was into being over the top because, “If God meant for us to play baseball, He would've made us any good at it.”
Hazel Ying Lee was an American pilot who flew for the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. She was the first ChineseAmerican woman to earn a pilot's license in 1932 at the age of 20.
Before she was the first Chinese-American female pilot to fly for the United States military, Lee grew up as the daughters of two business owners from Portland, Oregon. Her first flight occurred in 1932 shortly after she graduated from high school and she was the first Chinese-American women to earn a pilot’s license later that year. She flew non-combat missions and flew for various countries throughout the late ‘30s and early ‘40s.
In 1944 Lee’s life was ended when her plane collided with another on the runway in Great Falls, Montana. Sandra Edwards Spears of the National WASP WWII Museum remembers Lee’s contribution to the plight of female pilots:
It was not easy for any woman at that time to become a pilot. A lot of people believed that women shouldn’t be flying at all. But they freed up the men who used to fly those planes so that they would be able to go to combat.
Henry Ford and his wife in the first car he built in 1896, in a photograph from 1946.
The first car that automobile maven Henry Ford ever constructed was the Quadricycle Runabout, a vehicle that looks more like a carriage crossed with two bicycles than cars that we’re driving around now. The QR was Ford’s first draft at a gasoline-powered car, a chain drive, and and a buggy seat. At the time Ford had to come up with his own ignition system, which shows just how ingenious Ford was.
The Quadricycle Runabout was a very simple automobile with a two-cylinder engine. In 1896 Ford sold the car for $200 in order to build his second car and after his success in 1904 he bought the car back for $65. It’s good to see that the QR never stopped running.
Here's a young Ute warrior and his dog from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, 1873. (Photograph by J.K. Hillers)
No one knows when the Utes arrived in Utah, but by the 19th century of the the tribe was all over the state, but the Northern Utes stretched from from central Utah to western Colorado. At the time that this photo was taken Utah was filling with Anglo-American settlers and this was a threat to the Utes’ traditional way of life.
Skirmishes broke out between settlers and the Utes, and by the early 20th century the Northern Utes were forced to move to reservations. While the reservations were initially well sized, they were later portioned off for Strawberry Reservoir and national forest lands.
In 1919, the first 'Metropolitan Police Women Patrols' took to the streets of London.
It was inevitable that women would put on the badge and patrol the streets, even though a leader of Scotland Yard told a reporter in 1916 that women wouldn’t work in the police in spite of the fact that World War I was taking all of the men to Europe. By 1918 commissioner Sir Cecil Macready announced that the Metropolitan Police would start hiring women and by February 1919 there were wearing the badge.
By 1919 there were 112 women serving under “experimental” contracts with low pay and no pension. They weren’t even called police women, instead they were called “Women Patrols.”
Oregon Trail pioneers during their journey, 1860s.
By the middle of the 19th century Americans were spurred on by Manifest Destiny and they moved west to find a better life for themselves and their families. Anyone who’s ever played the point and click computer game knows some of the hardships that the travelers faced (dysentery anyone?), but that’s only scratching the surface of what settlers went through as they took covered wagons towards destiny.
This photo was taken towards the end of the Oregon Trail, when conditions had improved and bridges were constructed to make for a safer passage, and settlements were available to offer respite from the long days and nights on the road. By 1869 the first transcontinental railroad in Utah eased much of the hardships of the tail, but it didn’t put a stop to the American desire to explore.
Frances Poppy Northcutt was the only female engineer to work in mission control during the Apollo 8 program, she calculated the return-to-earth trajectories for the spacecraft. (1968)
Poppy Northcutt is one of the many unsung heroes of the Apollo space program. As the only women working on the technical crew, Northcutt not only had to make sure her calculations were spot on but she had to have tough skin in order to work with the brusque men who didn’t think she belonged with the crew. Her work helped NASA plan out the final route that the Apollo 8 crew used to get home. She later told PBS:
I felt a lot of pressure because I was the only woman. I started looking around at these dudes that were working with me and I thought, 'you know, I’m as smart as they are.'
Pablo Picasso in the studio at his home in France, 1956.
By the 1950s Picasso had moved through so many styles that he had to move onto completely new formats of art to work out the visions he saw in his head. Long gone were the days of his blue and rose periods, he was even finished with the wildly influential cubism period that he’s mostly remembered for.
Rather than go back to the well to give art fans something that they were used to, Picasso switched to sculpture in the ‘50s before getting back into painting in the late ‘60s. Never one to overstay his welcome, Picasso was always chasing something new.
Rural mail carrier in his winter uniform, Sweden, 1900.
It’s an understatement to say that it’s cold in Sweden. Not only are average winter temperatures between 27 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but the snow, ice, and rain only ad to the discomfort that comes along with trudging along while carrying the mail. On top of that, in 1900 postal workers didn’t have heaters to keep their mitts cold in between deliveries.
At the turn of the century many mail carriers in Sweden were traveling via stagecoach, which helped them move quickly across the country even if it wasn’t the most comfortable of rides. In some instances these stagecoaches even brought along a passenger if the price was right.
Mary Wells Lawrence was one of the few female ad executives during the 1960s. She founded the ad agency Wells Rich Greene and was the first female CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
As the founding president of Wells, Rich, Greene, an advertising agency known for its creative work, Mary Wells Lawrence was the first female CEO of a company that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The ads of WRG focused on humorous ad campaigns that quickly made them the talk of the advertising world. How did Wells become so successful? She says it’s by throwing herself into a world she didn’t understand and stretching herself as far as she could go. She once wrote:
You can't just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.
A family in pursuit of land to settle their homestead, 1886.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land,” and that’s exactly what the homesteaders of the 1800s were trying to do. Thanks to the newly acquired land in the west, Americans were striking out to find a better life and build something for themselves.
Homesteaders were required to spend at least five years on a plot of land, cultivating it and turning it into something useful before they could receive the title to the land. This law spurred on rapid settlement of the west and created a different kind of gold rush.
A female Ethiopian soldier ready for battle during the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935.
From 1935 to 1936 Ethiopia fought against Italy when the European country attempted to exert control over the nation. The whole thing was jumpstarted by an incident at the Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland that gave Benito Mussolini an excuse to bulldoze his way into the country. On October 3, 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia and the skirmish began.
The Italian army easily trounced the under-trained Ethiopians, and were condemned by the League of Nations. Mussolini didn’t care about the condemnation, and this small battle was one of the many things that turned up the heat in Europe as the continent prepared for the second World War.
A group of young shoeshiners gathered around a US Civil War veteran in Pennsylvania, USA in 1935.
In 1935 there was no internet, and the history books were either woefully underwritten or hard to get ahold of - especially for shoeshine boys. The best way to hear about a historical happening was to go straight to the source whenever possible. It’s clear that these boys are reveling in the stories of this former Union soldier, as boys are wont to do with grim tales from history.
The soldier looks to be reveling in the attention. After all, it’s not every day that someone who served in one of America’s defining moments is able to regale a group of eager listeners.
A little girl and her teddy bear wearing gas masks in Norfolk, England. (1940)
Unfortunately, gas masks where a way of life for Londoners during World War II. As the citizens of Great Britain lived through the Nazi blitzkriegs the fear that chemical weapons would be used during one of the bombings never subsided, and men, women, and children were given government issue masks in order to keep them safe. Because chemical warfare was such a big part of World War I, the government believed that gas would once again be used during the fighting a few decades later. One official remembers:
The terror of gas hung heavy on the public consciousness, and with the advent of the medium bomber bringing civilian population centres into the line of fire, the government considered the threat of gas to civilian populations to be severe.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, aged 74 or 75 in 1844. He defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Even though he was known as the man who bested Napoleon at Waterloo, Wellesley was a thoughtful man who didn’t take joy in going into battle. Even after trouncing Napoleon following the French leader’s tactical error of waiting until midday to attack, Wellesley wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of losing soldiers during hostilities. He wrote:
My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won: the bravery of my troops hitherto saved me from the greater evil; but to win such a battle as this of Waterloo, at the expense of so many gallant friends, could only be termed a heavy misfortune but for the result to the public.
Belgium coal miners crammed into a coal mine elevator after a day of work, circa 1900.
Regardless of what part of the world coal miners were working, the conditions were terrible. These men are European coal miners working in Belgium at the turn of the century, and it’s clear that they were treated with absolutely disdain. There was no worry about their safety and the workers were treated as second class citizens.
Regardless of the era, coal mining has always been a dangerous profession and in 1900 there were hardly any laws protecting the workers who put themselves into deadly situations every day to make sure the flow of coal didn’t stop. Hopefully someone at least made a warm meal for these men.
Bertha Parker Pallan was the first female Native American archaeologist. (1930)
Born in 1907, Bertha Parker Pallan was primed for greatness from birth. Her father was Arthur Parker, a Seneca folklorist, archaeologist, musicologist, and historian, and her mother was Beulah Tahamont, a woman who worked with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She was bitten by the archeology bug when she was hired as a cook and assistant by her uncle.
She quickly worked her way up the ranks of the crew and took a job at the Southwest Museum from 1931 to 1941 as an archaeology assistant, before becoming a full fledged archaeologist. In 1941 she left the Southwest Museum after marrying “Iron Eyes” Cody. She worked as a technical advisor on projects about Native Americans until she passed away in 1978.
Chief Josh of the San Carlos Apaches, 1898.
Throughout the tail end of the 19th century and stretching into the 20th century, the Apache natives were embroiled in a battle with the United States over territory that once belonged to the indigenous people but that had been ceded by Mexico. While most of the battles ended in the 1880s after the major Apache bands agreed to a cease fire, many sub groups continued to get into skirmishes until they were snuffed out.
The conflicts happened across the southwestern United States, and even though the Apache natives were outmanned and outgunned, they fought bravely for their land and are remembered as folk heroes among their people.
Claire Marie Hodges in 1918. Yosemite’s first woman ranger.
Thanks to World War I, the United States parks service was lacking people to work in the national parks. While Hodges was working as a school teacher at the Yosemite Valley School she heard that Yosemite was in serious need of rangers to keep an eye on the place and in 1918 she applied for the job of superintendent. She assumed that she’d laughed out of the building by the head of the park, Washington B. Lewis, but she later said that he told her, “I beat you to it, young lady. It's been on my mind for some time to put a woman on one of these patrols.”
After becoming a ranger Hodges took the job very seriously. She patrolled on horseback, took tickets when he needed to, and carried a rifle when the job called for it. It was another 30 years before Yosemite hired another woman as a full time ranger.
Colonel Carmen Robles was an Afro-Mexican woman who was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution (1910 - 1920).
For 10 years in the early 1900s the Mexican Revolution raged on throughout the southern country as the lower and middle class citizens took up arms to overthrow the government. This was a situation where you were either with the rebels or against them, and Ávila was all for the revolution. They were so into it that they chopped off their hair and changed their name to Amelio Robles Ávila in order to join the conflict as a male soldier.
As tricky as gender can be today, it was 10 times more dangerous to present yourself as something “different,” but Ávila was accepted by their peers and community. In 1970 the Mexican Secretary of National Defense recognized Ávila as a veterano of the Mexican Revolution.
Cooks of the 2nd Australian Battalion preparing the evening meal in Belgium during World War I. (circa 1916)
Even though they consistently put their lives on the line for the safety of their countries, soldiers definitely don’t get to eat as well as they should. Modern day military personnel are fed well when they’re on base, and there are MREs for soldiers in the field, but in World War I meals were made up of what was available, and sometimes that wasn’t much.
Soldiers had daily rations comprised of 9 oz of tinned meat, or bully beef, and if they were lucky they received rations of cheese, jam, and tea. The food was monotonous so the men looked forward to any time they could get out of the trenches and find a well cooked meal.
Fort de Schans, in the Netherlands, was constructed by William of Orange in 1574, who wanted to protect the island from the Spaniards.
Constructed around 1574, the Fort de Schans was ordered to be brought into being by William of Orange as a respite from Spaniards and as a way for ships to load and unload safely. The strangely shaped area made it hard for anyone to just show up unannounced, which is a major necessity when building a stronghold of any kind. The area later served as a prison, which makes sense because this doesn’t look like a place from which someone could escape.
Nearly 300 years later Napoleon decided to use the Fort and fortified it even more than it already was. Even though the area was built up as a stronghold in 1811 Napoleon never used the area as a means of defense.
Indian soldiers arriving in France to fight in World War 1, 1914.
British occupied India was not immune from the horrors of the first World War. Indian soldiers were thrust into the hostilities just like any other group of soldiers, with more than a million soldiers putting boots on the ground during the armed conflict. The soldiers experienced great hardships, and many of them were sent to France where they had to deal with the awful realities of their situation. One soldier wrote home:
Our people have many lice in their clothes, and they bite terribly. They are worse than a rifle bullet. But there are no mosquitoes or other creatures which bite mankind, and no snakes or scorpions at all.
Major General Joseph Fighting Joe Hooker sitting on a horse, circa 1864.
This fancy gentleman sitting atop his trust steed is none other than one of the most beloved members of the Union army. After serving in the American military in Mexico throughout the 1840s, and after that he moved to California for a while where he kicked around and tried some things that didn’t pan out. When the Civil War began he was commissioned as a brigadier general in 1861 and started working with General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in Washington, D.C.
Hooker was a beloved military officer, specifically because he made sure his men had plenty of food and medical care, but after a loss at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 he was sent to Tennessee where he served under General William T. Sherman, something that didn’t sit well with him. Hooker resigned from battle that year and spent the rest of the fight performing administrative work in Cincinnati.
Mary Wallace was the first female bus driver for Chicago Transit Authority in 1974.
Mary Wallace really wanted to be a bus driver. With her groovy look and killer smile it’s hard to understand why she wasn’t hired right off the bat. Wallace says that she had to pester, harass, and annoy the CTA into even letting her apply for the job, but in 1974 she was finally given a shot. Wallace said:
I used to work for the Planning & Placement Center when I was going to college, and we had job orders for CTA bus drivers. So I decided I wanted to check this out for myself, and I did. I went for three years, and they kept saying no, we can’t hire women, we don’t have facilities for women, so you have to do something else. I said I don’t want to do something else. I want to drive a bus. After three years of harassing them, they finally sent me a letter saying they would consider (not saying hire) me. They wanted me to come down and take some test, and I did not hear from them for about three or four months, and then I got a another letter saying I would be hired as a driver. After that, the rest is history.
Mrs. E. Marr, physio-therapist, with Dorothy Gifford, 2 1 2 at the walking bars in the Polio Clinic of Sudbury General Hospital in Ontario, 1953. (Photo by Chris Lund)
It’s always awful to see a child stricken with something like polio, a degenerative disease that weakens the muscles and can cause skeletal deformities. In the ‘50s the best that could be done for these children was to make sure that they got plenty of exercise to keep their muscles from completely depleting. One young sufferer remembers:
I contracted polio in Nebraska at age two in 1954. When I was released from the hospital after about six weeks, I had to wear two long leg braces. This is a picture of me learning to walk with parallel bars my dad had a friend build for me. They were set up in the middle of our living room for two months. I am told I practiced a couple times a day… Crutches were the next phase, for another two months. Then one brace broke. So, we discovered that I didn't need that one. I wore one brace and walked without crutches from then on. I learned to ride a bicycle and swim like many children.
One of the first Americans to enter World War I was a nurse named Madelon Glory Hancock from Asheville, North Carolina.
One of the first Americans to make it to the front in 1914, Madelon “Glory” Hancock was an adventurous young woman who served as a nurse in a military hospital in Belgium and later in France. She survived military barrages and gas attacks and even though she almost died numerous times she held compassion for men on all sides of the battle. She wrote in a letter to her father:
I am on night duty again and alone and we get 39 and 49 [wounded] in a night, all to be washed and their dressings done besides treatment for most of them and by morning I am like a resurrected corpse. I really never was so tired in my life. We all are…Four years of this has about finished me in every way. I think everybody feels the same. Worn out mentally and physically. We have lots of German wounded…Such nice mannered boys most of them. I was so surprised and our wounded are good to them, waiting on them and talking to them. Poor devils, they don’t want to fight any more than our soldiers do.
Students protesting a Brooklyn high school dress code that banned slacks for girls in 1942
It’s always strange to think that at one point in time women were looked down upon for simply wanting to wear slacks. They’re just pants, pieces of cloth, so what’s the problem? In 1942 16-year-old Beverly Bernstein was suspended from Lincoln High School for wearing slacks, and to show their solidarity her classmates showed up the next day in trousers. Not only was it rule breaking, but it was very cool.
Along with showing up in their favorite slacks, a petition was circulated stating that women should be allowed to wear pants if they wanted because “they are better than skirts in the event of an air raid,” the principal had no choice but to relent.
Swedish astronomer Frida Palmér at Lund Observatory in 1929.
A note to any astronomers out there, this should be your picture on your dating profile. Just you looking cool with a big ol’ science machine. Palmer grew up as an orphan after her father passed away when she was only five years old, but despite that early sadness she managed to do quite well for herself and become the first female Swedish astronomer with a doctorate.
Throughout her career she listed more than 259 stars with irregular periodicity variability, and she discovered that the light curves of some stars could be seen as interference between two or more simultaneous, periodic events in the stars.
The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only all-female, African-American battalion overseas in France during World War II.
A job that’s rarely talked about but that’s one of the most necessary during war time is that of delivering the mail. During World War II there was an uptick in mail going back and forth across the pond. When The women of the “Six Triple Eight” arrived overseas to begin their job they were greeted with a warehouse stacked full of letters and packages.
These enlisted women worked eight-hour shifts, seven days a week, in three separate shifts meaning that the work never stopped. They had to track men by their service numbers, and sometimes they had to investigate the mail in order to figure out where it was actually going. These women were an important part of keeping the men going during the war.
The football team at the Kansas School for the Deaf in 1918.
Founded in 1861 by Phillip A. Emery, a deaf instructor who moved to Olathe, Kansas in 1860, the Kansas State School for the Deaf was ahead of its time in the treatment of people suffering from birth defects. Rather than treat the deaf as people who would be never be able to function in normal society the KSD pushed the children to focus on how they could fit in.
KSD had its students participate in athletics, likely because this was not only normalizing but helped them work as a team. The football team started in 1899 and played against other state deaf schools from the region.
A 6-year-old Michelle Obama, 1970.
Michelle Obama nee Robinson was a seriously smart kid. Born in Chicago, Illinois to a working class family, her father was a city-pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain while her mother worked as a secretary at Spiegel’s. The family lived in a small apartment on the South Side of Chicago where she and her brother set in the living room with a sheet serving as their only room divider.
Both Michelle and her brother learned to read by the age of four, and they each skipped the second grade before getting into the gifted and talented program in the sixth grade. This photo was taken when she was only six-years-old shows a young girl who already knows that hard work is the key to accomplishing her goals.
U.S. Marines pause in the fight for control of Okinawa to give their mascot, a baby goat, some water. (April 1945)
In the waining days of World War II, U.S. troops barraged Okinawa on April 1, 1945 — Easter Sunday, beginning one of the bloodiest strikes that the military had seen to date. With Europe more or less in control of the Allies, the pacific countries were the last to fall and everyone was ready for the war to be over, but Japan wasn’t going to give up without a brutal fight.
Even as Americans pushed through 130,000 men on the island, the still found time to help their goat friend get a drink. Even as the hand to hand combat waged on around them, the soldiers knew that they couldn’t ignore an animal that only understood peace.
Veteran of the American Revolutionary War, William Hutchings at the age of 100 in 1864.
Some people are just built to live for a long, long time. Case in point - William Hutchings, a man who enlisted in the Revolutionary War when he was only 15-years-old. He fought to defend Maine from the British, and he was promptly captured by the red coats who felt that it was ridiculous to keep someone so young as a prisoner so they let him walk free.
Hutchings stayed in Maine throughout his life and after getting married when he was 22 he and his wife had 15 children. If his 100 years of age didn’t tip you off, that should let you know that his vitality is unmatched. Towards the end of his life he admitted that while his body was falling apart he was still sharp.
War correspondent Martha Gellhorn was the only woman to cover D-Day at the scene of landing day, she hid in the washroom of a transport ship and disguised herself as an orderly. (1944)
Martha Gellhorn was one of the many fascinating women who helped cover World War II. As a correspondent she made her way around Europe with the American and British soldiers where she reported for Colliers and the AP. In order to cover the fight on the beaches of Normandy she snuck onto a nursing ship using an expired press badge and hid in a bathroom where she drank until the boat arrived in Normandy, hungover and sea sick.
Gellhorn was thrown into the chaos of D-Day where she helped the doctors and medics as a stretcher bearer and to bring in the wounded from the water. She was the only journalist on the beach that day, the rest were behind her in the channel. Following D-Day she stayed with the U.S. military and covered the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945.
This photograph depicts a team of young medical professionals and assistants performing emergency surgery on an injured soldier during World War II in 1944.
Everyone had to pitch in the fights and skirmishes that lasted from 1939 to 1945. Soldiers who weren’t medically inclined had to learn the ropes quickly, and soldiers had to learn to work together as a team in order to get through the harrowing situations in which they’d be thrust throughout their time in Europe and the pacific.
It’s not clear who has the most medical knowledge here, but it looks as if two of these fellows actually know what’s going on while the rest of the soldiers are just doing their best. Hopefully whomever they were working on made it, with a crack team like this how could they have not?
9th Armored Division technician with a little French girl on Valentine’s Day, 14 Feb 1945.
On Valentines Day 1945, the fighting in Europe was coming to a close and everyone could feel it. People were more relaxed, and even the children who survived bombings and destruction could tell that a new era was cascading over Europe. Much of the goodwill was directed towards the Allied Forces and especially the U.S. military.
Even though the U.S. had been fighting since 1941, it still felt like a tide had turned when the states entered the fray. People felt confident knowing that American troops were on the ground, doing whatever they could to keep people safe.
WW1 - Men of the British West Indies Regiment cleaning their rifles on the Amiens Road near Albert, September 1916.
Formed from volunteers from the British West Indies, this regiment was one that almost didn’t exist. The British War Office was completely opposed to them joining the action during the first World War, but they finally relented although initially they only gave the BWIR “labor duties” rather than sending them into battle. As the conflict intensified the soldiers were moved to the front lines.
Volunteers in the BWIR dig trenches, built roads, and they loaded trucks and ships whenever they were asked. Even though it was grunt work these men were happy to serve their country in any way they could. Following the end of a campaign in Palestine Major General Sir Edward Chaytor, commanding officer of the BWIR wrote:
Outside my own division there are no troops I would sooner have with me than the BWIs who have won the highest opinions of all who have been with them during our operations here.
Members of the National Women's Party demonstrating at the White House in 1918.
By the early 1900s women were tired of waiting around for the president, congress, or men in general to do anything for them. They wanted to take the reigns of history into their own hands and control their lives. In order to get their message across the women organized protests outside of the White House throughout Woodrow Wilson’s term.
The picketing didn’t sit well with politicians who thought that the women should be home, and who saw them as unpatriotic. Many members of the National Women’s Party were arrested for picketing and sent to a workhouse where they went on a hunger strike and were force-fed. The public didn’t care for the way the suffragettes were being treated and by 1919 women had the power to vote.