Posts Tagged ‘History’

WILLIAM PRICE (1800 – 1893) Performed the First Legal Cremation in Britain

In Biography, Cremation, People from Wales, Trivia on June 21, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Dr. William Price

Like everyone, William Price came into this world naked. Unlike everyone, that’s how he walked around the hills near his home in Wales. If that wasn’t enough to irritate the clergy and the neighbors, the echo of his voice reading poetry aloud gave them more than enough to gripe about. And those weren’t his only irksome idiosyncrasies.

Price’s father was an Anglican priest, but he never earned his living from the ministry. Perhaps this gave William Price senior the courage to defy authority in his own way, by marrying his love, Price’s mother. By doing so, he was forced to forfeit a college fellowship since it required celibacy.

Defiance seemed to run in their genes. Father taught son to speak exclusively Welsh, but junior also became fluent in English and conversational in Latin and several other languages. Price didn’t start school until he was ten, but at age 13 he was pursuing a curiosity and studied privately with an apothecary.

When Price was 20 he refused to follow his family’s advice to be a teacher and went to London to study medicine. He began his practice at an iron works back in Wales. He became very sympathetic to the workers who were forced to endure dangerous conditions for very low wages. As a result he became a Chartist. Chartism was a movement that sprang from the working class in Britain. Members advocated election reform and social change. At this time, it was wrong for a Christian to participate in political matters as it meant being too involved with worldly affairs.

Price had already proven himself disloyal to the Church, and he was involved in the Newport Rising in 1839, a march demanding release of Chartists who were imprisoned. The leaders of the march were charged with treason and sentenced to hanging. Price fled to Paris to escape a similar fate. There he became a practitioner of Druidism, a mystical philosophy believing nature is sacred, and a self appointed archdruid.

THE DOCTOR IS IN                                                                                                          When Price returned to Wales he resumed his medical practice, which was as controversial as he was. He believed in preventing illness with a vegetarian diet, exercise and fresh air. He had contempt for other doctors who he claimed only treated symptoms, and he refused to treat patients who smoked. He also was opposed to vaccinations.

Price’s diagnoses and treatments were also unconventional. He told one woman who complained of headaches that her hat was too heavy, and he counseled a farmer who was afflicted with stiffness to wash away accumulated grime. Price’s prescriptions were herbal medicine aimed at treating the causes of illness along with some druidic chanting. He was known as a brilliant surgeon but rarely performed operations. Often he treated his patients for free, only accepting payment if they confirmed being cured.

The doctor’s personal eccentricities continued to be worthy of gossip. When he did clothe himself, his typical outfit consisted of bright red trousers and a red shirt. He wore a fox-skin headdress with the legs and tail hanging down past his shoulders and the fox’s head resting on top of his white hair. His beard was over a foot long. He refused to wear socks believing they were unhygienic. He washed every coin he was given. Again parting ways with Christian doctrine, Price advocated free love and was against marriage because he believed it was a form of enslavement for women. As a druid he was also against burying the dead, convinced that a decaying body polluted the environment.

PRACTICING WHAT HE PREACHED                                                                   Price was a man who lived by his beliefs. When he was 80 years old, he took up with his housekeeper, Gwenllian Llewellyn, who was 60 years his junior. Three years later they had a son. This was Price’s second child; he had also fathered an older daughter. Perhaps out of pure defiance, he named the son Jesus Christ.

At the age of five months, the son died. Price was determined to follow the druidic ritual of cremation even though it was illegal in Britain. He prepared his son’s body, wrapped it in linen, put it in a casket and set it on top of a pyre. The authorities didn’t appreciate this contempt, snatched the child’s body off the growing flames and arrested Price for illegally disposing of a body while his neighbors threw stones at his house.

Wearing his habitual costume accessorized by a tartan shawl, Price defended himself in court. He asserted that burial was a waste of good land, polluted the earth, water and air and presented a danger to living creatures. The judge bought his argument and ruled in his favor, declaring that cremation was not illegal if it wasn’t a public nuisance. Since Price had cremated his son on his own property, he was acquitted. This was the precedent ruling that led to the 1902 Cremation Act that finally made cremation legal in Britain. Price was then free to cremate his son’s body properly.

In 1884 Price, aged 84, and Llewellyn had another son which they also named Jesus Christ. Three years later they had a girl, Penelopen Elizabeth. Both children survived.

WHAT A WAY TO GO                                                                                                        Price wrote into his will in 1891 that his body should be cremated. He specified that he be put upright in his uncle’s old chair and placed on top of a cord of wood and two tons of coal. He wanted to be cremated at noon and have his ashes scattered to help grow grass and flowers.

In 1892 Price fell from a carriage when the horse slipped on ice, but he recovered from his injuries. One year later, however, he took a turn for the worse and died. His habitual drink was cider, but on his death bed, when presented with his favorite beverage, he spoke his last words, “Give me champagne!”

Price’s family sold tickets to his cremation, and it is estimated that a crowd of 20,000 witnessed the ritual. Because Price was such a controversial, eccentric personality, when the fire was exhausted, attendees picked through the ashes for souvenirs.

QUESTION: Do you think it is more important to do things to fit in or to express your individuality?

© 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved


VICTORIA C. WOODHULL (1838 – 1927) First Woman to Run for U. S. President

In American History, American Presidents, Biography, Feminists, History, People, Presidential Candidates, Trivia, Victorian Women, women on June 14, 2010 at 9:21 PM

Victoria C. Woodhull

While Victoria California Woodhull’s endeavors did not all end successfully, she was very successful at laying a foundation for women to build on in business and politics.

Woodhull’s childhood was unstable.  Her family was poor, and love seemed to be a commodity her parents, Roxanna and Reuben Buckman Claflin, couldn’t afford.  The best way Claflin knew to deal with his ten children was to beat them.  Ironically, he had acquired wealth through real estate speculations, but lost everything when Victoria, the seventh child, was three.  Roxanna was born into money, the heiress of a rich Pennsylvania German family.  Being waited on hand and foot limited her motivation, and she never became literate or gained any ability to fend for herself.   

Woodhull’s formal education copied her mother’s.  She only spent a few years in school because she was pressed upon to help out so much at home, being treated almost like a slave.  Woodhull missed going to school and was an excellent student, but she acquired knowledge from other sources.

 BEING GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT                                                                              Woodhull believed in angels and lived with them as friends.  Every day she went into a trance and communicated with them, often sitting on the roof of the house for hours to escape the cruel, demanding life inside.  She had a simple faith in God, and took great comfort in relating to the angels and receiving channeled messages from them.  She credits these beings with giving her the ability to retain everything she read.

The angels were not imaginary beings but the spirits of people close to Woodhull.  When she was three, her nurse died suddenly.  Woodhull clearly remembered joining the nurse on her journey to the spirit world, being carried there by her.  Her mother recounted that her daughter’s body lay immobile, as if she were dead, for the three hours of this experience.  Woodhull also lost two sisters who died in childhood, and they became invisible playmates to her.  She also claimed to receive a prophecy from a spirit who confirmed that she would one day be a writer and publisher and leader of her people.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM                                                                                           On the way to fulfilling her destiny, Woodhull married at age 14.  Her husband was 28, and it was not a happy union.  For two years she had become increasingly sick with the fever, and eventually Dr. Canning Woodhull was called to treat her.  When she recovered, he escorted Woodhull to a picnic and on the way home proposed marriage. This terrified her but her parents accepted the offer, and four months later they were married.  Dr. Woodhull’s fidelity lasted two days before he resumed his life as a philanderer and a drunk who lived beyond his means.

Within two years they had a baby boy, and it was born developmentally disabled.  Woodhull and the baby returned to her family and she earned her living with her clairvoyance and wisely invested her money. Then she had a healthy baby girl by another drunken philanderer.

Woodhull finally met her soul mate in Col. James H. Blood, a loving and compassionate man who was also a Spiritualist.  They were married spiritually if not legally, and Woodhull retained the name she was known by.  When Woodhull would go into a trance and channel the messages of the angels, Blood would diligently write down every word.

GOING WHERE NO WOMEN HAD GONE BEFORE                                          In 1869 Woodhull turned her attention to business and with her sister, Tennie, became the first female brokers on Wall Street when they established Woodhull, Claflin & Company.  They were supported partly by Woodhull’s investments and the respect and deep pockets of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who appreciated Woodhull’s clairvoyant abilities.  The sisters did not participate in the daily operations of the company, but they were nevertheless mocked in the press for being women in influential positions in finance.

The following year, these entrepreneurs started a journal called Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly which became a platform for their views on politics, finance and women’s issues.  If they weren’t controversial before, they were now.  Their opinions varied widely from the mainstream, and no topic was off limits.  They advocated the elimination of the gold standard, graduated income tax, legalized prostitution, spiritualism and vegetarianism.  They promoted women’s rights including sex education and “free love.” Woodhull believed in monogamy, but also that a woman retained the right to determine with whom she had sex.  And, contrary to the social mores of the time, she strongly defended a woman’s right to leave a bad marriage.  Woodhull quickly became a leader in the women’s suffrage movement preaching equality, freedom of choice, and the right to vote.  

IT’S AN HONOR TO BE NOMINATED                                                                 In 1871 Woodhull received a message from the same spirit that had earlier predicted her future, telling her to run for President.  Her husband dismissed the notion as ridiculous, and the friends that she consulted laughed at her.  But, the idea grew on her, and she trusted her spirit’s guidance. She announced her intention to run, and in June 1872, she was officially nominated as the candidate to represent the newly created Equal Rights Party.  Frederick Douglas, a former slave, was nominated as her running mate, but he did not accept. Woodhull’s platform was to advance women’s political equality with men. She received support from trade unions, socialists and women’s rights advocates, but some of her ideas were so radical that more conservative suffragists like Susan B. Anthony would not support her.

Woodhull’s nomination was controversial not only because of her gender, but the legality of it was suspect.  Technically she was ineligible because she wouldn’t be 35 years old, as mandated by the Constitution, until six months after the inauguration.  However, since Ohio, her birth state, didn’t require birth certificates until 1867, Woodhull’s age couldn’t be confirmed.  Also, the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote wasn’t ratified until 1920, which implied that a woman couldn’t run for President either.  And some believed that because she was a woman she was not a citizen, also a requirement for President.

Ulysses S. Grant easily won reelection, leaving Woodhull’s destiny unfulfilled.  In 1876 she divorced Colonel Blood and a few months later moved to England with her children.  She earned her living on the lecture circuit.  Wealthy banker John Biddulph Martin attended one of her talks and ended up becoming Woodhull’s third husband when she was 45 years old.  This time she assumed his name.  As Victoria Woodhull Martin, she and her daughter published a magazine called the Humanitarian until she was widowed.   She died in England on June 9, 1927.

QUESTION:  What are the best and worst things about being President of the United States?

© 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved


YOUNG OAK KIM (1919 – 2005) First Ethnic Minority to Command a U.S. Army Combat Battalion

In American History, Biography, History, Korean Americans, Korean War, Trivia, U.S. Army, World War II on June 7, 2010 at 9:32 PM

Young Oak Kim

Young-Oak Kim was born in 1919, the same year as Liberace, Eva Peron and Jackie Robinson.  Those gained fame by being in the public eye.  Kim’s recognition came from more sacrificial pursuits.

Kim’s parents immigrated to America, and his father owned a grocery store in Los Angeles. That was lucky since Kim had six siblings and there were a lot of mouths to feed.  Kim’s father belonged to “The Great Korean Association,” keeping ties to their homeland strong. 

After high school, Kim decided the future would be more profitable if he worked rather than continue his education.  He dropped out of junior college after one year but had trouble finding jobs because of racial discrimination.  His next option was to enlist in the military, but he was refused by the U.S. Army, again because of racial discrimination.  The outbreak of World War II changed everything, and the U.S. Congress passed a law including Asian Americans in conscription, thereby giving Kim his wish.  He was drafted into the Army in January, 1941, three months before his father died.

A TRUE PATRIOT                                   Kim started his military career as an engineer before admission to Officer Candidate School at age 24.  He was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion, a unit of all Japanese American soldiers. Kim believed his superiors didn’t know the difference between Koreans, Japanese and Chinese.  Since Korea was occupied by Japan at the time, when he reported for duty Kim was offered a transfer, but his national pride was greater than his ethic loyalty.  He refused the transfer saying, “There is no Japanese nor Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.”  His youth, ethnicity and exuberance were three strikes against him at the beginning, but eventually he won the respect of enlisted men and officers with his cool head and courageous leadership.

A REAL HERO                                            The 100th Battalion was originally sent to North Africa, but Kim and his troops wanted more action.  They were reassigned to Italy where Kim’s leadership skills were evident, especially in the Battle of Anzio.  Before they could proceed, the Allies needed to know the locations of German tanks.  First Lieutenant Kim and Private First Class Irving Akahoshi volunteered to infiltrate German territory to get the information.  The two soldiers crawled to an area near Cisterna, Italy, captured two German soldiers in broad daylight and snuck them past enemy outposts back to camp.  The information obtained from these prisoners led to the liberation of Rome and earned Kim the Distinguished Service Cross.

Not one to rest on his laurels, now Captain Kim also led his battalion in battles at Belvedere and Pisa, which helped the Allies occupy Pisa without any casualties.  In France, he helped liberate Bruyères and Biffontaine.  Kim spent six months in Los Angeles in late 1944 on leave to recover from wounds sustained in fighting at Biffontaine.  By the time he had recovered, Germany had surrendered, and Kim decided to trade the action of military for the relative calm of civilian life.

Kim opened one of the first semi-self-serve “launderettes” on Los Angeles.  Many of the skills that made him a great military leader also made him a successful businessman.  That sustained him for two years until the Korean War started.  He realized that it was action that he wanted and abandoned his business and reenlisted in the Army.

VISITING HIS HOMELAND               All Koreans or Korean speakers were assigned to the Army Security Agency. They were responsible for interpreting enemy communication.  But a desk job didn’t excite Kim as much as being on the front lines.  He denied knowing any Korean, cashed in a favor and was allowed to join the infantry.  He landed in Korea, and was undoubtedly thankful he actually did know the language.    

Then Colonel William J. McCaffrey had to figure out how to make the largely incompetent 31st Infantry of the 7th Infantry Division successful.  By McCaffrey’s special request, Major Kim joined the battalion as the Chief Intelligence Officer and a de facto operations officer.  Colonel McCaffrey’s trust in Kim was well rewarded.   The 31st Infantry subsequently won almost every battle and played a major role in pushing Chinese troops back over the 38th parallel and establishing the current border between North and South Korea.

WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR                   This success had an unfortunate flip side.  During the operation, Kim’s unit made it farther north than seemed possible.  The 555th Field Artillery Battalion, thinking they were enemy troops, erroneously bombarded Kim’s battalion, and Kim was seriously injured by the friendly fire. Kim was saved by doctors from Johns Hopkins University who were in Tokyo, and went back to Korea two months later.

Colonel McCaffrey didn’t want to waste Kim’s talent, so he put him in command of the 1st Battalion.  This distinguished Kim as the first ethnic minority to command an Army combat battalion in U.S. history. In September 1952, Kim returned to the states after almost one year in this position. 

Kim extended his tenure in the Army for another 20 years serving in the U.S., Europe and again in South Korea.  He retired in 1965 as a Colonel.  His exemplary and sacrificial service was rewarded by two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a French Croix de la Guerre and an Italian Cross of Valor.  In 2005, Kim was also given France’s highest award, the Legion of Valor and South Korea’s highest military honor, the Taeguk Order of Military Merit.

LIFE GOES ON                                             After settling again in California, Kim finally pursued his education.  He graduated with a degree in history in 1972 and worked as the CEO of Fine Particle Technology.   He was married and divorced twice.  

Kim was a humanitarian as well as a soldier.  While in Korea, his compassion persuaded his battalion to adopt an orphanage ensuring that more than 500 war orphans would receive supplies and monetary aid.  His was the only United Nations military unit serving on the frontline to adopt an orphanage during wartime. After his retirement from the military, Kim served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations including the Japanese American National Museum, the Korean American Coalition and the Go For Broke Educational Foundation which he co-founded.

Kim’s life was ended by cancer at the age of 86.  He’s buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, HI.

QUESTION:  How could you reach out and make peace between you and someone you don’t like?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved