This Week in History: August 18-24

Featured Article, History, This Week in History, Traditions
on August 18, 2013
H.P. Lovecraft was an American weird fiction author.

Some of science fiction’s greatest writers and producers were born this week. Creations like “Fahrenheit 451,” “Call of Cthulhu” and “Star Trek” all depended on this week in history. Also, American women could finally vote, Abraham Lincoln made a name for himself and Pluto became something other than a planet, ruining thousands of children’s visions of the solar system. Read below for details!

August 18:
19th Amendment Ratified

After years of struggle for women’s suffrage in the United States, the 19th Amendment was ratified today in 1920, giving women the right to vote. The American women’s suffrage movement began in earnest at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, due mainly in part to the fervor of suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Activists pushed to get blacks voting rights, with the 15th Amendment in 1869, but were not able to push through women’s suffrage. Support for suffrage rallied during World War I; the amendment was ratified when Tennessee approved it, making a majority.

August 19:
Gene Roddenberry Birth

The man who brought us to the Final Frontier was born on this day in 1921. After serving as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, Gene Roddenberry devoted his life to writing and in 1966, created and produced “Star Trek.” The original series ran until 1969, but Roddenberry’s brainchild spawned numerous film adaptations and sequels. Roddenberry died in 1991.

August 20:
H.P. Lovecraft Birthday

One of the fathers of modern science fiction and horror was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on this day in 1890. Writing in the “weird fiction” genre, Howard Phillips Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos in a series of short stories and novellas, most prominently “At the Mountains of Madness.” Lovecraft’s work was not recognized during his life, but has gained prominence since his death. He, along with Edgar Allen Poe, is regarded to have shaped horror and fantasy writing for the modern age. He also wrote around 30,000 letters in his lifetime. Lovecraft died in 1937.

August 21:
Lincoln-Douglas Debates Begin

Running from August 21 to October 15, 1858, Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln engaged in debates about slavery and other pressing national matters as they traveled the state of Illinois. Lincoln, a Republican, was vying for Democrat Douglas’ Senate seat. Though he lost the election, Lincoln’s performance in the debates—which lasted hours—increased his national prominence and popularity.

August 22:
Ray Bradbury Birthday

Science fiction and fantasy author Ray Bradbury was born today in 1920. His works criticized social issues like segregation and warned of the dangers of technology. Bradbury’s most famous works include the short story anthologies “The Illustrated Man” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and the dystopian novel, “Fahrenheit 451” The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America give an award in his name for excellence in screenwriting. Bradbury died in 2012.

The turning point of World War II in the European Theater, the Battle of Stalingrad was a feat of human perseverance; it began on this day in 1942. Nazi troops had pushed to Stalingrad on Russia’s Volga River and trapped Soviet troops within the factory city. For five months, the Germans laid siege to the city, reducing the once thriving town of 500,00 to a scant 1,500. A total of 1.48 million troops were lost at this battle between the Russians, Germans, Romanians and Italian forces. The battle was won when the Soviets launched a two-pronged offensive encircling the German forces. German forces surrendered at Stalingrad on February 2, 1943.

August 23:
Sacco-Vanzetti Execution

After one of the most controversial court decisions in American history, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed on this day in 1927 after six years of appeals. They had been convicted of the murder of a payroll clerk, but evidence for their conviction was murky. Questions about their guilt remain. Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted.

August 24:
Pluto Demoted to “Dwarf Planet”

On this day in 2006, millions of people had to rethink their understanding of the solar system. Astronomers at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union voted to demote Pluto from ninth planet from the sun to “dwarf planet.” The decision came after years of debate on the definition of a planet. Pluto is not dominant within its orbit enough to be designated a planet.