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PAUL POPENOE (1888 -1979) First Marriage Counselor and Eugenicist

In American History, Biography, Doctors, People, Trivia on October 27, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Paul Popenoe, age 27

In 1888, Paul Popenoe was the first of four children born in Topeka, Kansas.  When his parents moved the family to Pasadena, California, Popenoe found fertile ground for his seemingly disparate interests: growing date palms, eugenics, and marriage counseling.

The Victorian values of the late 19th century were embedded in Popenoe, but he took a progressive stance on many issues, making his life a contradiction.  He was a Sunday school teacher in his youth but later eschewed religion and became a secular humanist.  When he was 17, he fainted after eating a steak dinner and became a strict vegetarian long before that was popular.  But, true to his Victorian roots, he did not believe in any kind of sex outside of marriage, and he was a virgin on his wedding night.

About 1908, Popenoe dropped out of college after three years to work and care for his sick father.  After working as a newspaper editor for a few years, he quit his job and made a six-month tour of Europe.  Popenoe’s father worked as a nurseryman when he retired, so on his dad’s behalf, Popenoe learned Arabic, one of eight languages he knew, and traveled around the Middle East collecting date palms.  This lead to his first book, Date Growing in the New and Old Worlds, published in 1913, which became a manual for horticulturists.   

A CERTAIN KIND OF PEOPLE PERSON         Later that year, Popenoe moved to Washington D.C. to edit the new publication the Journal of Heredity. He idolized Charles Darwin and believed that improving humanity would happen by applying science to society.  His focus turned to heredity and eugenics, an extension of natural selection.  Eugenicists believe in improving the genetic makeup of the human population specifically by sterilizing people with genetic defects or undesirable traits, thereby keeping them from reproducing.  This was a very progressive point of view subscribed to by the intellectuals of the time, including Alexander Graham Bell, Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt.  Popenoe’s self study in a group of like-minded scientists and intellectuals eventually resulted in his book Applied Eugenics, published in 1918. 

During World War I, Popenoe was a captain in the vice and liquor section of the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities.  He was responsible for eliminating liquor and prostitutes from around the army training camps, the perfect job for a teetotaler with his puritanical upbringing.  After the war he went to New York and worked as the Executive Secretary of the American Social Hygiene Association.  Their mission was to use public education to promote premarital abstinence, but they were broadminded enough to promote sex education and birth control. 

BECOMING HIS OWN CASE STUDY               It was while he was in New York that Popenoe married Betty Bowman, a dancer 13 years his junior, after a six month courtship.  The couple moved to Coachella Valley, California where Popenoe retreated to his first love and established a date farm until the agricultural market collapsed and forced them to move to back to Pasadena.

Popenoe’s lack of experience with women made his marriage rough going at first.  He was, however, determined to understand the unique world of women, and his efforts resulted in the book Modern Marriage, A Handbook for Men, published in 1925.  Fifteen years later he revised the book to include advice for women based on his personal and professional experience. 

Despite his lack of a college diploma, in 1929 Popenoe was awarded an honorary doctorate from Occidental College, where he had done two years of study twenty years earlier.  He used the title Dr. Popenoe professionally.

STAYING TRENDY                       The application of his philosophy of hereditarianism shifted with the tide of social thought, and he changed his focus from genetic improvement to family improvement.  In 1930 Popenoe founded the Institute of Family Relations (later the American Institute of Family Relations) in Los Angeles, bringing marriage and family counseling (a concept that started in Germany a decade earlier) to America.  He maintained that “…to improve the race, we should first start with the family.  And since the family often suffers problems which threaten its stability, we must treat those problems.  In other words, we should establish a marriage counseling center where maladjustments might be brought, studied, classified–and helped if possible.”1  Part of his counseling was to encourage fathers to take an active role in the lives of their children. 

In the ensuing decades, the Institute had up to 70 counselors and claimed in 1977 to have counseled over 300,000 men, women and children.  He required the counselors to be married and never divorced.  Even though Popenoe was not religious, in the 1960s and ‘70s many of his assistants were ministers and other religious people, including Dr. James D. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  His office moved to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and Popenoe became the marriage counselor to the stars, although Lana Turner went to his house for her sessions to maintain privacy.

REACHING THE MASSES              Popenoe’s influence extended beyond the Institute.  He wrote a daily newspaper column called “Your Family and You,” and he counseled couples on a reality TV show called “Divorce Hearing.”  He was a popular lecturer on college campuses and wrote a total of 17 books and numerous popular and scientific articles on marriage relations.  Television host Art Linkletter asked Popenoe to help him create a way to successfully match men and women, a forerunner to today’s dating services.  Popenoe created a questionnaire of 32 items including race, religion, politics, and pets.  Over 4,000 people responded to a newspaper ad to be matched.  A Univac computer analyzed the surveys and picked a couple who were introduced to each other on Linkletter’s television show People Are Funny.  It was a good match, and the couple got married. 

In 1953 Popenoe started the advice column “Can This Marriage Be Saved” in the magazine the Ladies Home Journal, using actual case studies from the Institute in his articles.  Still a feature of the magazine, the column has been called “the most popular, most enduring women’s magazine feature in the world.”1

Popenoe’s own marriage was not without its challenges, but he practiced what he preached.  Within the relationship the duties fell along traditional gender lines: Popenoe worked and took care of the yard and Betty was a stay-at-home mom who raised four boys.  Their youngest son wrote that Popenoe was a strict disciplinarian who, despite a heavy work schedule, gave his children lots of attention.

In his 1926 book Conservation of the Family, Popenoe predicted what the family of the future would be like.  He expected better mate selection, greater understanding leading to a stronger permanence of love, more intelligent consideration of children, more concern for individual development, especially for women, and more democracy within the family structure.1

QUESTION:  What do you think makes a good marriage?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

1http://www.popenoe.com/PaulPopenoe.htm

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/glossary=eugenics

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eugenics

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,867279,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Popenoe

Popenoe, David, War Over the Family.  New Jersey: Transactions Publishers, 2005   http://books.google.com/books?id=FhZeJwLSu74C&pg=PA238&lpg=PA238&dq=obituary+paul+popenoe&source=bl&ots=iH3CDQf5Ut&sig=qWwi-eyeC2zp23l5EpqalGP91eg&hl=en&ei=GiLHTJOMAoyssAPKps2oDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=obituary%20paul%20popenoe&f=false

AUDIE MURPHY (1924 – 1971) Most Decorated Soldier in World War II & Actor

In Actors, adventure, American History, Hollywood, People, People from Texas, Trivia, World War II on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy was twelve, the dream of fighting in the Army was his only relief from the poverty and back-breaking work of his Texas sharecropper family.  He was one of nine children who all worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough to hold a hoe.  While he was tending the crops, Murphy fought many battles, and he was always victorious and unharmed.  Real life did not play itself out so easily.

When Murphy was a young boy, his father left with no explanation and never returned.  His mother died when he was sixteen.  The three youngest children were placed in an orphanage, and the rest were forced to fend for themselves.  Murphy worked in a gas station and radio repair shop, but he had a bad temper and got into fights often.  He preferred to be alone, and only in solitude could he connect with his dreams.

 NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK   On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Murphy was 17 years old and more determined than ever to become a soldier.  The day he turned 18 he went to the Marine Corps recruiting station to offer his services.  He was rejected outright for being too skinny, which only added to his anger.  His second choice was the newly formed paratroopers.  They were a little more encouraging, telling him to come back after putting on weight.  His third option was the infantry, even though he thought they were too ordinary for his ambitions.   They accepted him as he was and shipped him off to boot camp.  During the first close-order drill, Murphy passed out and was immediately dubbed “Baby.”  To add insult to injury, he was transferred to cook and baker’s school.

Refusal to do anything else eventually got Murphy a place back in the rank and file. In 1943 he landed in Tunis, Tunisia and then went on to Italy.  Finally, his dream of being in combat was coming true.

In Sicily, Murphy was moving ahead of his company with the scouts.  Two Italians appeared, and instead of surrendering, they jumped on horses to escape.  Murphy instinctively fired two shots and killed the two enemy soldiers.  Murphy’s company commander made him a corporal.  During a march to Palermo, covering 25 miles per day, he contracted malaria and was in the field hospital for a week. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER    After many more battles, some additional training and two more bouts of malaria, Murphy landed in France.  His company was ordered to neutralize a hill that was an enemy strongpoint.  Murphy and two comrades were bringing up the rear with enemy fire surrounding them.  One of his partners died mid-sentence right next to Murphy, and the other one was killed when standing up to move.  Murphy dove into a ditch and came face to face with two German soldiers.  The split second it took for them to realize who they were looking at was enough of an advantage for Murphy to react, killing both of them. 

While he was making his retreat, Murphy exchanged fire with several Germans in various foxholes until his ammunition ran out.  He found some fellow soldiers pinned to the ground by German fire overhead.  Murphy dragged a discarded machine gun into a ditch and aimed uphill so the enemy had to expose themselves to shoot down to him.  By the time he was ready to shoot, however, bullets were landing within a foot of his body.  He let loose with fire in all directions trying to hit anything he could.  There were cries of agony, and Murphy walked uphill to reconnoiter the area.  He saw several dead Germans and one that he put out of his misery. 

When more gunfire attacked him, he emptied his weapon and waited.  One of his buddies, Brandon, arrived, and as both men started walking in the ditch, they were attacked at point blank range.  A bullet clipped off part of Brandon’s ear, but he was able to kill both attackers.  The two American soldiers dove into a hole already occupied by two Germans, and killed them.  Then Murphy and Brandon raised their helmets, inviting fire to reveal the enemy’s position.  They lobbed two hand grenades toward the sound of the blast, and then there was silence.  Brandon saw a white handkerchief waving and was convinced the Germans were giving up.  Murphy cautioned him against responding to the gesture, but Brandon stood up to capture the surrendering enemy.  In a barrage of bullets, Brandon fell back into the hole.  Murphy was trapped with two German soldiers under him and his best buddy on top.  With single-minded focus, he tried to move his friend, leading the way with a grenade.  He sneaked behind the remaining Germans and made sure they were permanently incapacitated.  Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers to confront.  After removing the personal effects from Brandon’s pockets, Murphy sat next to his friend and cried until he was spent before rejoining his company.

For his courage and commitment in many similar situations during three years of active combat, Murphy received 33 awards and decorations.  He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award given for bravery.  In an attack of six Panzer tanks and 250 infantrymen, Murphy mounted an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and used one machine gun to stave off the advancing enemy.  Even though he was wounded in the leg, Murphy stayed there for almost an hour, fighting off the attacking Germans on three sides and single-handedly killing 50 of them.  After rejoining his company, he organized a counterattack which forced the Germans to retreat.  In addition, he received five decorations from France and Belgium.  He is credited with killing, wounding or capturing over 250 enemy soldiers.  In 1945 Murphy was 21 years old when he resigned from active duty.  He had attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.

LIFE AFTER WAR    James Cagney saw Murphy’s photo on the cover of Life magazine and invited him to go to Hollywood.  Murphy admitted he had little talent, and he struggled to get parts, sleeping in a gymnasium until he got a break and finally a contract at Universal.  He found his niche in westerns and starred in The Red Badge of Courage directed by John Houston. 

In 1949 he published his autobiography, To Hell and Back, which proved to be a bestseller, and he starred in the film version of his story.  The movie set a box office record for Universal that was only surpassed by Jaws in 1975.  He made a total of 44 films.

Murphy’s heart was always in Texas, and he owned a ranch there as well as in California and Arizona.  He owned and bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, winning and losing fortunes gambling on them, and playing poker.  He also discovered a talent for songwriting, and he wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold and Roy Clark. 

In 1949 he married actress Wanda Hendrix, but the marriage only lasted a year.  In 1951 he married Pamela Archer, and they had two sons. 

LIVING WITH THE NIGHTMARES     Murphy’s combat experiences haunted him for the rest of his life.  He suffered from “battle fatigue,” now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow.  In order to cope with insomnia and depression he became addicted to sleeping pills.  To break the addiction, Murphy locked himself in a motel room for a week until he finished going through withdrawal.  He advocated on behalf of the soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam for better health benefits and treatment for mental health issues. 

On May 28, 1971, Murphy, 46 years old, was a passenger in a private plane when it crashed into a fog covered mountain near Roanoke, Virginia.  He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. 

QUESTION:  How do you feel about war?  What ideals do you think are important enough to die for?

To see clips of Murphy in To Hell and Back go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFOMVKB9fiY&feature=related

To see his appearance on the game show “What’s My Line” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RWQ5tESVzk

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Murphy, Audie, To Hell and Back. New York: Holt Rinehart, and Winston, 1949.

http://www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy

http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2907/murphy-audie-l.php

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/historical_information/audie_murphy.html

SOPHIE BLANCHARD (1778 –1819) First Women to Fly Solo in a Hot Air Balloon

In adventure, Ballooning, Biography, Feminists, French History, People, Pilots, Uncategorized, women on September 15, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Sophie Blanchard

In the 1960s, The 5th Dimension sang, “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?”  When Sophie Blanchard’s husband said that to her, she said, “Yes,” and they were Up, Up and Away.  Sophie felt most comfortable in the air, but what goes up must come down.

Marie Madeleine-Sophie Armant came to the world’s attention when she married Jean-Pierre Blanchard, an inventor and pioneer in French aviation, specifically ballooning.  Other than the fact that she was born to Protestant parents in western France, almost nothing is known about her young life.

Blanchard was about 16 years old when she married, 35 years younger than her husband, becoming his second wife.  She was described as a small, nervous woman who startled easily when she heard loud noises.  When she started flying with Jean-Pierre, she felt more at home in the quiet, peaceful sky than on terra firma.

TAKING TO THE SKIES                Blanchard made her first balloon ascent in 1804 with her husband as a stunt to raise money.  Even though Jean-Pierre was the world’s first professional balloonist and had made demonstration tours all over Europe, he wasn’t a very good businessman.  They hoped that having a woman in the basket would attract more fans.  Blanchard wasn’t the first woman to ride in a balloon.  Three other women had gone up in tethered balloons, and two women had previously gone up untethered, but seeing a woman aloft was still a novelty.

In 1809, Jean-Pierre was flying over The Hague when he had a heart attack and fell from his balloon.  He died from his injuries.  He had adopted the Latin phrase Sic itur ad astra (“Such is the path to the stars”) as his personal motto.  Blanchard decided to follow her husband’s path and became the first woman to fly solo in a balloon.

Blanchard still needed to pay off the debt left by her husband, so her balloon of choice was a hydrogen-filled gas balloon.  The benefits of using gas (instead of hot air) generally outweighed the risks.  She wouldn’t have to tend to a fire to keep the balloon airborne and, since she was a petite woman, she could use a small basket about the size of a chair and minimal gas to inflate the balloon.

WORTH THE RISK                          Even though ballooning had been popular for almost 30 years, the inherent dangers still made it a risky endeavor.  Blanchard passed out during several flights because of the high altitude, and she encountered freezing temperatures when she cruised at 12,000 feet.  In 1811, she had to stay airborne for over 14 hours to avoid a hail storm.  And sometimes landing was just as risky.  One time her balloon made a crash landing in a marsh, and she almost drowned.

Blanchard’s husband had experimented with parachutes, dropping dogs out of the basket to demonstrate floating down to earth safely.  One time when flying solo his balloon ruptured, and he was grateful for the parachute as his only way to escape.  None of Jean-Pierre’s mishaps deterred Blanchard from her own desire to be a pilot.  When she had the opportunity to fly solo, Blanchard also tested the flotation devices using dogs, but she never had the occasion to need one herself.  When she flew exhibitions at events, she spiced things up by attaching small baskets of fireworks to parachutes to light up the sky as they were falling.

Engraving of Sophie Blanchard in 1811

GETTING OFFICIAL RECOGNITION      Napoleon was a big fan of Madame Blanchard, and he appointed her as the “Aeronaut of the Official Festivals,” making her responsible for organizing balloon demonstrations at official events.  In 1810, she flew over the Champs de Mars (today near the Eiffel Tower) in honor of Napoleon’s marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria.  To commemorate the birth of their son, Blanchard flew over Paris dropping announcements of the birth.  One year later, Blanchard made an ascent over the palace Château de Saint-Cloud during the official celebration of the boy’s baptism, and she set off fireworks from her balloon.  There’s speculation that she also devised plans with Napoleon to use hot air balloons for an aerial invasion of England, which were never carried out.

Blanchard’s popularity outlasted Napoleon’s rule.  When Louis XVIII returned to Paris in 1814 to regain the throne, she participated in the official procession, making her ascent from Pont Neuf.  King Louis was so impressed by her performance that he named her the “Official Aeronaut of the Restoration.”

Blanchard was also known throughout Europe, and large crowds came to watch her.  For the opening night of the opera in Frankfurt in 1810, she was allegedly responsible for a poor audience, as most of the city turned out to see her rather than attend the opera’s debut.

AN UNPLANNED DESCENT          In 1819, when Blanchard was 42 years old, she made an ascent over the Tivoli Gardens (now the site of the Saint-Lazare station), an area she was very familiar with.  She was warned repeatedly about the dangers of using pyrotechnics in her exhibitions.  She had never had an incident, but on the night of July 6, she was uncharacteristically nervous.  She went ahead with the demonstration, wearing a white dress and white hat topped with ostrich feathers and waving a white flag.  There was a strong wind and the balloon had difficulty rising.  It bounced off a tree in the attempt.  Blanchard threw ballast overboard, reducing the weight but also jeopardizing her stability.

When she had cleared the trees, Blanchard began her show using “Bengal Fire” fireworks to illuminate the balloon.  While she was still rising, the hydrogen caught on fire and the balloon started to fall.  The wind carried her off course, and Blanchard continued to eliminate ballast to become lighter and keep from plunging to the ground.

The balloon drifted above the rooftops of the Rue de Provence where the hydrogen gas finally burned up, causing the balloon to drop onto the roof of a house.  Blanchard was tossed out of her small basket, fell to the street below and was killed.  Speculation after the fact determined that the pyrotechnics were knocked out of position by the tree the balloon hit on the way up.

The crowd was stunned, and the rest of the event was cancelled.  The owners of Tivoli Gardens donated the admission fees to the support of Blanchard’s children.  When they found out that she didn’t have any children, the money was used to build a memorial to her over her grave, which was engraved with epitaph “victime de son art et de son intrépidité” (“victim of her art and intrepidity”).

QUESTION:  How do you feel about flying?  Would you like to be a pilot?  Why or why not?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Blanchard

http://www.mindensoaringclub.com/int2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=115&Itemid=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Pierre_Blanchard

http://www.eballoon.org/history/history-of-ballooning.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XVIII_of_France

http://www.latin-dictionary.org/Sic_itur_ad_astra

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2059