By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham
Joshua Feuerstein is someone that we had never heard of until he posted a video to Facebook claiming that Starbucks “hated Jesus” because they took Christmas off their red cups. This launched a wave of articles and responses discussing the so-called War on Christmas. What nobody seemed to notice, or at least care about, was that the video was posted on November 5, a full 50 days before Christmas.
In his weekly Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, Gregg Easterbrook of the New York Times regularly discusses his Unified Theory of Creep, which holds that things are constantly creeping forward. To put it another way, we are incapable of living in the moment and must look ahead to the next big thing. That people plead with stores to wait until after Remembrance Day to put out Christmas decorations is a sign of how far things have gone. It really shouldnt be a big deal to say “please, try to restrain yourself to only seven weeks of Christmas songs.”
But it’s not just holidays. Benjamin Moore has already declared the 2016 Color of the Year. Motor Trend revealed its 2016 Car of the Year in November, a full six weeks before the end of 2015. Starbucks launched its fall favourite pumpkin spice latte in August, a full month before fall. Angela Merkel was named Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year on December 9, reminding us once again that, apparently, nothing important happens in December.
This article, which has somehow survived for a third edition, is part of our effort to combat this trend of creep by reminding everyone that time and perspective are important. So we are back to recap the most important events of the year, 100 years later. The rules are simple, we used a painstaking (and proprietary) process to select sixteen major events from 1915 and created four March Madness style brackets. This year they are the Cultural Region, the Science Region, the Politics Region, and (everyone’s favourite) the Potpourri Region. From there, we engaged in a back and forth debate over each match-up on our way to determining the biggest event of 1915.
Like last year, though, we disqualified anything to do with the First World War (with one exception). This isn’t because we don’t want to write about the war – despite knowing we couldn’t do it nearly as well as Canada’s First World War – but rather that the war would dominate the bracket and easily win. For that reason, we have focused on some lesser known, yet still incredibly significant, 1915 events.
(1) John McCrae Writes ‘In Flanders Fields’ v. (4) Francis Albert Sinatra Born
Sean: With all do respect to our friends at Canada’s First World War, does anyone else think ‘The Way You Look Tonight in Flanders Fields’ could have made a great song?
In this matchup, we are breaking our self-imposed rule to not discuss anything associated with the First World War. Why? Because ‘In Flanders Fields’ is so culturally relevant beyond the scope of the war – and I’m not just talking about making second graders recite it every November 11. Penned by John McCrae, the poem was initially published anonymously in the British magazine Punch. The poem famously highlights the poppies that grew over soldiers’ graves and is credited for making the poppy an international symbol of remembrance. The poem was also used extensively in war propaganda, in particular in the push to sell war bonds.
Perhaps more uplifting, Frank Sinatra is widely regarded as one of the best crooners of the 20th century. Sure he had ties to organized crime, but sometimes that’s what happened in New York, New York. Night and Day Sinatra was the consummate performer, working through the Summer Wind and Blue Moon – even willing to perform Somewhere Beyond the Sea. In addition to his many musical triumphs, It Was a Very Good Year in 1953 when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for From Here to Eternity.
Aaron: With all due respect to Mr. Sinatra (I prefer not to be pretentious), I believe that “In Flanders Fields” is more significant, especially considering the subject matter. Here in Canada, it is a source of pride and a direct remembrance to Canada’s participation in the First World War – and not simply a poem that second graders recite once a year. When one attends a war memorial service you can almost certainly expect to hear “In Flanders Fields,” proving not only its impact but cultural legacy, too.
Sean: If you prefer not to be pretentious, you’re in the wrong business, my friend. And you’re right, it’s not just something that second graders recite on November 11, it’s also something they forget on November 12. I would question the global significance. And this is not to downplay the poem, but everyday millions of people listen to Sinatra music. People know the lyrics, recognize the tunes, and adore the songs. And is there a better funeral song than ‘My Way’? The poem is great, but it just strikes me as a little more specialized and, arguably, niche, than Francis Albert.
Aaron: Ok, I’ll concede the point. However, I will not be pretentious.
Francis Albert Sinatra Born Wins (44-41)
(2) Birth of a Nation Released vs. (3) Booker T. Washington Dies
Aaron: Race relations in the United States have undergone immense changes, from slavery to Civil Rights and beyond. In the early twentieth century, race relations were still quite tense, as white supremacy remained ingrained in some southern states, while the advancement of the African-American community continued to develop. It is along these lines that the next two events go head to head.
One of the more infamous groups in American history, of course, is the Ku Klux Klan. Formed in the aftermath of the Civil War, the KKK was, among other things, a white-supremacy group that was vehemently racist. Although the Klan did not last very long – the First Klan dissolved in the 1870s – it had a lasting impact. In February 1915, the film The Birth of a Nation by D.W. Grffith premiered. The film follows the relationship of two American families during the Civil War and Reconstruction period, one pro-Union and the other pro-Confederacy. The KKK is featured prominently in the film, and the racist ideas of the period are readily apparent. For example, white actors portrayed African American characters in blackface. Not only was The Birth of a Nation a groundbreaking film for its filming techniques and feature-film length (the original cut was 190 minutes), it also helped to spawn the Second Klan in November 1915. In fact, William Joseph Simmons, the man who re-founded the Klan, adopted regalia that were featured in the film.
Right around the time the Second Klan was founded, an influential African American leader died. Booker T. Washington died on 14 November 1915. Born into slavery in Virginia in 1856, Washington went on to become a national advocate for black education. Washington was very active in the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) and fought against the Jim Crow laws that were being established in the South. In 1895 he issued his “Atlanta Compromise,” which told African Americans that rather than confronting segregationist policies, they should focus on the economic and educational advancement of the black community. He also established the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1881. Washington’s role in advancing black rights was certainly significant during an era when racism was intense throughout the South.
Going on sheer influence, I have to go with The Birth of a Nation. In no way does this diminish the role of Booker T. Washington, but the film had an immense impact in many ways. Cinematically, a three-hour film in 1915 was huge, not to mention the large budget and production costs. It also developed new means of cinematography. Culturally, it helped to refound the KKK, which not only continues to operate chapters today, but also continued the systemic racism that was prevalent during Reconstruction into the 1960s, which also greatly impacted the Civil Rights movement.
Sean: Hands up everyone who has been able to sit through Birth of a Nation? Anyone? Bueller? It’s a three-hour horror show of racism with an incredibly creepy-looking Lincoln. I understand that it spawned a new era of filmmaking, but I wonder if that was simply because it was the first movie of its length – because if apart from being first, its cinematic impact was limited, I question its significance. Secondly, the re-emergence of the KKK does not necessarily make the film important. Given the deeply ingrained cultural and institutional racism in the South during this period, that a film provided occasion to re-constitute a hate group does not strike me as particularly significant. The re-existence of the KKK did not change the racial attitudes of its members – they were racist before and remained so – which makes me wonder about the film’s influence in this regard.
Which is why Booker T. Washington is clearly the winner here. Not only was he courageous in his battle against racism, but the enduring legacy of Tuskegee University is much greater than the legacy of the film. The continuing struggle to eradicate racism is of much greater significance.
Aaron: Wow. You convinced me to change my mind, too. I’m going to change my support for Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington Dies Wins, 65-63 (OT)
(1) Albert Einstein Publishes Theory of Relativity v. (4) Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations
Sean: The Theory of Relativity is that thing that everyone has heard of, but very few people can actually explain. Completed in 1915, Einstein’s revolutionary theory encompasses both special and general relativity and forever changed physics. Among the ramifications of the theory, my personal favourite is Einstein’s contention that space and time should be considered in relation to each other because it allows us to discuss counter-factual history by noting that it would take place on a different space-time continuum. In addition, one of the lesser-known practical uses of the Theory is the Global Positioning System (GPS), which functions with the precision it does because of relativity.
Alternatively, Thomas Edison’s telescribe machine was first displayed during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco – which is where Alexander Graham Bell first publicly demonstrated the transcontinental phone line from New York. The telescribe was able to record phone calls and assisted in improving the technology that led to answering machines, which is great for those of us who don’t really like to answer the phone.
For this one, I’m going to have to go with my layman bias and go with the telescribe. Given that we really can’t make a phone call now without being monitored, it could be argued that Edison really opened Pandora’s Box with the telescribe and has led us to a moment in time where governments listen to our calls but somehow can’t manage to find a plane. Plus, if GPS is the most public of the uses of relativity, think about the extensive damage that has done to cartographers.
Aaron: The only reason you didn’t pick Einstein is because you’re one of those people who have no idea what his theory of general relativity is about…
Sean: Then you explain it.
Aaron: I could, but since I’m not a Dr. I’ll leave it be.
Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations Wins, 109-108 (4OT)
(2) Aloysius Alzheimer Dies v. (3) ‘Typhoid Mary’ Arrested
Sean: Following medical school German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Aloysius Alzheimer took up office at an asylum in Frankfurt, where he began his study of the brain. Working closely with colleague Franz Nissi, Alzheimer studied brain pathology by using Nissi’s method of silver staining the histological sections of the brain. When Alzheimer met patient Auguste Deter in 1901, he was intrigued by her abnormal behaviour and short-term memory loss and focused on her for the next five years. When she died in 1906, he had the opportunity to examine her brain in-depth and found that there were amyloid plaques and neurofribrillary. This allowed him to be the first to present the pathology and clinical symptoms of presenile dementia together. It wasn’t long after that patients around the world were being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant to the United States who worked in the homes of several families in New York. But something strange was happening – people in the homes where she worked continued to be diagnosed with typhoid. Since she didn’t exhibit any symptoms, it was thought to be an unfortunate coincidence. In 1906, however, typhoid researcher George Soper was hired to investigate and found that Mary was the only common element between the cases and that, perhaps, she should be quarantined. She angrily rejected the notion that she was responsible for the deaths, but when a major outbreak was traced to her in 1915 she was arrested and placed into quarantine to protect the public. Widely considered the first asymptomatic carrier of typhoid in the United States, it wasn’t until her death in 1938 that doctors could examine her gallbladder and found evidence of live typhoid.
Between the two, it seems to me that Alzheimer is the bigger figure. He discovered a disease that has ravaged millions of lives and, sadly, is not as yet curable. Before something can be cured, of course, it must be discovered and Alzheimer’s discovery was the first step towards a cure. Typhoid Mary, on the other hand, is more like a bandit who seems to have wanted to live outside the law. But unlike the famed and often celebrated bandits of the 1930s, nobody crowed about their brush with Typhoid Mary.
Aaron: As much as it pains me, I have to agree with Sean. Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible affliction that impacts millions of people. Properly diagnosing this disease was certainly a step in the right direction in (hopefully) finding a cure. Although I must say that I was floored that Mary Mallon lived until 1938 while being asymptomatic to typhoid!
Aloysius Alzheimer Dies Wins, 86-58
(1) Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark v. (4) U.S. House of Representatives Rejects Women’s suffrage
Aaron: In my opinion, it is not a stretch to say that the right to vote is extremely important. Being able to elect ones representatives and government is essential to democracy, and, in a way, to the well being of a nation. Yet this very right was limited to a select group for hundreds of years – namely white property holders in various nation states around the world. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the right to vote was afforded to women, and even then only in a small number of countries.
In 1915, the United States House of Representatives, which had a Democrat majority, blocked legislation that would have allowed women the right to vote. Some of the Representatives did so because they felt that women should not be burdened with the responsibilities of voting, while others likely still considered women intellectually incapable of making an informed vote. Regardless of their reasoning, American women had to wait another five years before suffrage was granted to them in federal elections.
Yet that same year, women were granted the right to vote in Parliamentary elections in the Kingdom of Denmark, capping off a period of significant constitutional reform. Although not the first European nation to allow women’s suffrage, it marked yet another step forward in recognizing that women’s opinions are as integral as their male counterparts in shaping their democracies.
Seeing as I strongly believe in all adults having the right to vote, it is obvious that I think the extension of suffrage to women in the Kingdom of Denmark in 1915 wins.
Sean: “It is not a stretch to say that the right to vote is extremely important.” That’s a bold stance, Mr. Boyes. While I agree that the expansion of voting to women in Denmark is significant, given that, as you note, it was part of wider constitutional reforms, perhaps you’re being too altruistic in this matter. On its own it is a watershed moment, but it has to be viewed in the wider historical context. Nevertheless, I concur that granting the franchise is more significant than continuing to deny people their right to vote.
Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark Wins (70-28)
(2) Canadian Northern Railway Completed v. (3) Sir Charles Tupper Dies
Aaron: This matchup features a pure Canadiana battle between the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway and the death of Sir Charles Tupper. Both the CNR and Tupper helped to unite Canada and help to make it become a transcontinental entity.
The Canadian Northern Railway was founded in the 1880s at a time when transcontinental railroads were all the rage. Being able to travel from one coast to the other would not only unite the people of Canada by a band of steel, it was also a prerequisite for British Columbia to enter Confederation. Although not the first transcontinental railroad, the last spike of the CNR was driven 23 January 1915 at Basque, British Columbia, making a continuous line starting from Quebec City. The company eventually merged with the Canadian National Railway in 1923.
On 30 October 1915, Sir Charles Tupper died, becoming the last Father of Confederation to do so (if you don’t count Joey Smallwood – sorry Newfoundland). Born 2 July 1821, Tupper played an influential role during the Confederation era and beyond, serving as the Premier of Nova Scotia between 1864 and 1867, effectively ensuring that the Maritime Province joined the new Dominion. Post-1867, he held several positions in federal politics, including being our High Commissioner to the United Kingdom between 1883 and 1896. He also became the sixth Prime Minister in Canadian history, serving between May 1 and July 8, 1896 – the shortest tenure to date. In 1900, he moved back to the UK where he remained active in promoting Canadian interests in the British Empire.
While the completion of the Canadian Northern Railways is important, as it enabled more goods and people to be moved across the continent, I think that Sir Charles’ death had more of an impact because of the life he lived. Tupper was a significant figure in pre- and post-Confederation Canadian history. He was influential in promoting Canada within the British Empire and for helping to make Canada a united nation from coast to coast.
Sean: Despite the fact that Tupper went undrafted, I am inclined to agree.
Sir Charles Tupper Dies Wins (90-65)
(1) Neon Discharge Tube Patented v. (4) Raggedy Ann Doll Patented
Aaron: Patents. Gotta love ’em. Being the first to solidify your claim and in turn your place in history!
In 1915, Georges Claude was awarded a U.S. patent for his design of the discharge tubes and electrodes used in neon lights. The original idea came as Claude developed neon tube lighting as a way to use the neon that was produced as a byproduct of his air liquefaction business. He first demonstrated the neon lights at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. Between 1915 and the 1930s, Claude and his company sold neon lights throughout the United States, making it a common feature in advertising, which has a major influence on the industry.
Johnny Gruelle created the popular children’s character Raggedy Ann for his daughter in the early twentieth century and wrote and illustrated several stories featuring Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. In 1915, he received a U.S. patent for the now-iconic Raggedy Ann doll. Thousands, if not millions, of children had a Raggedy Ann doll growing up (my sister did!), which shows how popular this character was and remains.
Although no one can overlook the influence of children’s toys (especially since some from the 1980s and early 1990s are selling for hundreds of dollars on E-Bay), the patenting of neon signs is more influential overall. Everyone who has seen an advertisement has seen a neon sign (although they are made differently now), which changed the way advertisers sold their products. Neon signs are iconic and arguably more recognizable and had more of a global impact than the Raggedy Ann doll.
Sean: I won’t tell the women to whom you are related by marriage about your love affair with patents. I’ll be honest, my only experience with Raggedy Ann was it’s inclusion as a plot point in an early episode of Home Improvement. And ultimately, just look at Times Square – check and mate.
Neon Discharge Tube Patented Wins (81-68)
(2) The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Established v. (3) Altitude Record set by Joseph E. Carberry
Sean: My love/hate relationship with flying has been well documented, which is why this one presents such a conflict for me.
On March 3, 1915 the American government founded NACA to promote coordination on war related projects. Working out of research facilities across the country, NACA tested a variety of planes and experimented with high-speed flight. Perhaps its greatest legacy, however, is not from the machines it put in the air, but rather some of the equipment aboard those machines. From the NACA duct to NACA airfoils, the organization was instrumental in aeronautics and improving the technology – and ultimately safety – of flight. While it was disbanded in 1958, with equipment and personnel transferred to NASA, NACA was a major player in the modernization of aviation.
Joseph E. Carberry, however, didn’t need NACA before he pushed the limits of flight. On January 5, 1915 he flew his Curtiss Model E plane, which had been manufactured using spare parts, a then-record 11,690 feet in the air. With Captain Benjamin Delahauf Foulois as a passenger – I can think of a better co-pilot – Carberry defied gravity like never before. Winner of the Mackay Trophy in 1913, Carberry was a celebrated pilot who retired in 1924.
This one is tough. I want to say Carberry, but records are meant to be broken – and that one is broken every day. But one could argue that the work of NACA fundamentally changed the way in which we fly and made flight more possible. And given that you can now fly from Toronto to Tokyo, that would be the end of that debate.
Aaron: Once again I agree. The path taken to get where we are today, being able to fly anywhere in the world and even launch rockets into space, had to start somewhere. NACA was that start, and it is because of it that we will one day have whaling stations on the moon.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Established Wins (77-45)
Cultural Region Final
(3) Booker T. Washington Dies v. (4) Francis Albert Sinatra Born
Sean: This is a tough matchup – in fact you could say that it’s Killing Me Softly. To me, the tie-breaker here has to be the long-term legacy. Despite all his remarkable achievements, including having the school on the Steve Harvey Show named after him, Booker T. Washington has been surpassed in the public imagination by such luminary figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. On the other hand, Sinatra’s place in the culture has remained the same. His contemporaries like Dean Martin pushed the genre, but nobody – not even Buble – has been able to surpass his accomplishments in the field of entertainment.
Aaron: Here, it’s all about timing. Not enough time has passed for Sinatra to be surpassed, which skews his importance. Booker T. Washington died a century ago and yet his name will always be associated with Tuskegee University. If in 2098 he is still as influential then I will concede the point. However, seeing as I will likely not be around in 2098, I’m going to support Washington (unless cryogenic freezing has greatly improved.)
Sean: For Ted Williams’ sake, I hope it has. I don’t understand your point – in fact I think it’s Something Stupid. This isn’t the Third Annual (?) Year in Review (183 Years Later) – it’s the Third Annual (?) Year in Review (100 Years Later), so we have to judge this based on a 2015 perspective. And, despite my admiration for the work of Booker T. Washington, I have to argue that, right now, Sinatra has a more pervasive presence in the culture. It may change, but of course that’s Just Life.
Francis Albert Sinatra Born 64-61
Science Region Final
(2) Aloysius Alzheimer Dies v. (4) Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations
Sean: Between the two of these, I wonder which one has had more of an impact on people’s daily lives. The ability to record telephone calls did represent a fundamental shift in communications – not only could people talk to each and overcome vast distances, they could also leave their voice if the other person was unavailable. Given that it was just a year earlier that the trans-continental phone line was completed, this was a major development. Alzheimer’s discovery was a watershed to be sure, but the identification of a disease isn’t quite as revolutionary as recording voices. Remember that time I left that ridiculous message on your machine?
Aaron: Recording messages is important, but how important was it in 1915? How many phone calls were being made that required recording? Identifying the disease that affects the brain and trying to find a cure is much more important, especially long term. As for that phone call, can’t say that I do.
Sean: That’s too bad, it was phenomenal. I would say that the ability to record, even in 1915, was quite important. Keep in mind too that while all this was going on radio was also expanding, further contributing to the growth in communications. And recording voices was a critical component of this. Sure, Alexander Graham Bell wasn’t creating messages to avoid his girlfriend, but the telescribe made recording voices possible. And given the incessant way we make use of the technology today, its long-term significance is slightly greater.
Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations Wins (59-51)
Politics Region Final
(1) Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark v. (3) Sir Charles Tupper Dies
Aaron: This matchup intrigues me. I wonder how Sir Charles felt about women voting, and I wonder if women could vote would he have won the 1896 election? But since this is about historical influence and not hypotheticals, lets discuss. Charles Tupper is a big name in Canadian political history, and for good reason. He clearly had the support of the people of his home province of Nova Scotia, enough to represent them in both provincial and federal politics. Yet politicians can only survive with the support of the people, and giving women the right to have a say in their representatives was an essential moment in history. Denmark joined only a few countries in allowing women the right to vote in 1915, which places it in elite company in the progression toward equal rights. All things considered, I believe that women’s suffrage wins.
What do you think, Sean? Would Tupper have got the female vote?
Sean: You mean the original Tupperware Party? You never know. I think I agree. Extending the right to vote – however overdue it may have been – is an extremely notable moment in time. That being said, I do wonder what type of influence the decision in Denmark had on the rest of the world. Were suffrage movements in Canada and the United States emboldened by the decision? For the purposes of the bracket, this is an important question. If it was an isolated case that didn’t have much resonance outside of Denmark, I wonder about it’s inclusion here.
Aaron: I don’t know if it influenced other suffrage movements, especially since Canada did not grant women the right to vote until 1917 and the United States until 1920. I still think enfranchising thousands of women ranks higher than a single individual, however important he may have been in Canadian history.
Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark Wins (66-60)
Potpourri Region Final
(1) Neon Discharge Tube Patented v. (2) The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Established
Aaron: In terms of influencing technological advancement, both of these rank high on the Good Job By You scale. Before we could launch rockets and send a satellite to the outer reaches of our galaxy, we had to start somewhere and that place was NACA. With the support of NACA, engineers and scientists were able to pioneer newer flight technology, which continues into the twenty-first century. Yet for all that can be said about aviation, and Sean has a lot to say (including his theory about hover travel), I still believe that neon signs are more influential overall. Indeed, Times Square in New York is iconic because of the flashing lights that dot the buildings. More people around the world also use neon signs (or newer versions thereof) than think about probing further into the galaxy – although searching for alien life is a great way to spend an evening I hear.
Sean: This seems backwards to me. The signs in Times Square are more impressive than the planes flying above? Really? Put it this way, if a neon bulb goes out a sign doesn’t work and we won’t know about half price curtains at the discount depot. But if a piece of a plane doesn’t work, well this is the best outcome. And even that is a stressful experience. Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often, and that achievement can be traced back to the pioneering work of the folks at NACA.
Aaron: While it is true if a neon light goes out the impact is not as drastic as when part of a plane malfunctions – although I can’t believe you’re so cold toward discount curtain retailers. That being said, harnessing another form of light and energy is also part of the equation. The development of a new technology that has had a positive impact worldwide.
Sean: Positive impact? I think you may have been spending too much time in certain parts of Amsterdam.
Aaron: Since you’re such a fan of airplanes, and you’ll likely cry if you don’t get to write about them in the next round, I’ll concede.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Established Wins 98-97 (3OT)
Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations v. Francis Albert Sinatra Born
Sean: This one is quite difficult, but I have to go with the Telescribe here. After all, we wouldn’t have access to Sinatra’s music without it – you could even argue that the two go together like Love and Marriage. Ultimately, though, the ability to record phone calls is such a major development in the history of communications. Think of the Watergate scandal. TSA wiretaps. That time you got dumped because you left a stupid message proclaiming your love for a girl you just met. All possible because of Edison’s invention.
Aaron: Thankfully I was able to erase that embarrassing message before my ex-fiancee heard it, thus saving my marriage! I agree, though, that the telescribe is more important than Sinatra for the impact on our world.
Sean: Saving your marriage? Well I suppose for another 19 years and 4 months.
Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations Wins (77-68)
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Established v. Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark
Aaron: For me this comes down to a luxury versus a right. Flying is critical to how our society functions, and NACA provided the basis for improvements in aeronautics. However, voting is a fundamental human right that should not be withheld due to gender. Denmark took a positive step forward, which was followed by more countries in subsequent years. We need more countries to follow suit with what Denmark did a century ago and allow women to cast a ballot to help shape the world in which they live.
Sean: I’ve always been interested in this idea of voting as a right. Ultimately, democracy is a human invention and the distribution of the ability to participate in that system is just as much an invention. There is no doubt it has been an extremely prejudiced system for the bulk of its history, but it’s the suggestion that democracy is somehow an essential institution that is interesting to me. It’s like that old saying ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.’
Aaron: While democracy is a human invention, it is better than the other systems of government in which women are denied the same rights as men simply because of their gender. So democracy may not be the best, and it certainly has its flaws, but it is better than others. Besides, Megan was looking over my shoulder as I wrote this and she was emphatic that women’s suffrage is more important.
Sean: More important than flying?
Aaron: Until your hovering plan works, yes.
Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark Wins (72-68)
Enrico Palazzo Championship Game
Thomas Edison Invents Telescribe to Record Telephone Conversations v. Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark
Sean: I am extremely biased on this matter. As someone who studies radio for a ‘living,’ the ability to record voices is essential and we have Edison to thank for this. In arguing for this I don’t think I’m arguing against women’s suffrage, but rather for the telescribe. If we put this in global terms, the expansion of the vote in Denmark affected the Danish, whereas the telescribe had much greater influence worldwide. We can call anyone around the world and if they’re not there – or more likely in my case, screening the call – you can leave a message and not have to call back. It’s brilliant!
Aaron: I have to stick to my guns on this one and be the champion for women’s suffrage. While it may only have been influential in Denmark in 1915, it is part of the wider women’s rights movement. Edison did not create the modern invention of voicemail, and so you’re jumping ahead a little. But women can still vote in Denmark, which is more important than you leaving embarrassing messages on women’s phones…which they subsequently screen.
Sean: I’m not saying that he created voice mail, but rather the technology that ultimately gave us voice mail. And so much more than voice mail. It’s the ability to record the human voice. This leads to albums, talkies, radio, and podcasts (bias alert!). These things are universal. My argument for this is really about geography – a global development versus a national one.
Aaron: But women’s rights are a global development. You think they only have women in Denmark? You need to get out of your office more often then.
Sean: You mean the woman I share an office with isn’t the only woman in Boston? If you think about it as one forced us to acknowledge half the population’s opinions whereas the other contributed to individual insularity and isolation from other people, it’s hard to argue.
Aaron: Boom doctored.
Sean: You’re not a doctor.
Aaron: Too soon.
Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark Wins (38-37)
Aaron Boyes is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently awaiting his defence date. He previously completed his MA in history at uOttawa and his BA at Trent University in Peterborough.
Sean Graham is a William Lyon Mackenzie King post-doctoral fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where he studies the history of Canadian broadcasting and the CBC. He is an editor at Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast.