The History of Harriet Tubman for Kids

Have you ever looked at money and wondered about the people whose pictures are on the bills in your country?  Most countries have images of important people from history on their coins and bills.  In America, most of the bills contain images of past presidents who did important things.  But as you know, from listening to this podcast, there are many people throughout history who have done important things that are not presidents!

This is why right now, in the United States, the government is working on plans to have the $20 bill redesigned.  The new version of the bill will have a picture of a woman that not everyone knows.  But she was an important person in American history.  Her name is Harriet Tubman.  When the bill goes into circulation, she will be the first African-American woman to be featured on American money. 

So who was Harriet Tubman?  Harriet Tubman was a human rights activist and former slave.  She fought during her lifetime for the end of slavery.  This is known as “abolition.”  She helped many people escape slavery during her lifetime.  She helped them get to freedom through a secret route called the “Underground Railroad.”  But let’s go back in time and see how she became such an amazing woman.

Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 in Maryland.  Her original name when she was born was Araminta Harriet Ross.  She had 8 brothers and sisters and her parents were slaves.  Her parents gave her the nickname “Minty” which was short for Araminta.  

Minty’s life as a child was hard because she lived in slave conditions.  A “slave” is legal property of another person and forced to obey them.  Minty loved her family, but they were separated when she was young.  Three of her sisters were sold to a different family and moved to the south to work on cotton plantation farms.  As slaves, Minty and her family often suffered violence.  Minty was beaten as a child by her “owners” which caused her to have injuries that lasted her whole life. 

Minty was inspired by her father, who spoke out when their “owners” wanted to separate their family even further.  They were planning to sell Minty’s younger brother to a different family to work on their farm, by Minty’s dad didn’t want anymore of his children sent away.  Her father resisted this and was successful.  To “resist” means to stand up against an action that you don’t believe in. Watching her father stand up for his family set a strong example that inspired Minty. 

When she was a teenager, Minty was hurt very badly.  She had been sent to the store to buy supplies for the farm and she came across a slave that had left the fields where he worked without permission.  The man’s “overseer” told Minty to help him get the runaway slave back.  She would not help.  The man threw a large weight at her and it hit her in the head.  She had headaches and trouble sleeping for the rest of her life. 

These experiences as a child and seeing how African-American people around her were treated inspired Minty to want to help end slavery as an adult. 

In 1844, Minty met a free black man named John Tubman.  Around that time, around half of the  African-American people in Maryland were free.  There is not much that is known about John Tubman, but Minty married him and changed her name to Harriet Tubman when she did.  The couple lived together for a number of years and were together when Harriet began her work with the Underground Railway.

In 1849, Harriet’s owner died.  She decided that she would escape slavery in Maryland and move to Philadelphia.  Two of her brothers, Ben and Harry, decided to come with her.  Her husband did not decide to go along.  On their way to Philadelphia, the three siblings saw a “wanted” poster with their pictures on it.  It offered a $300 reward if anyone captured and returned the three of them.  

The brothers were scared by this poster and decided to return to their owners plantation.  Harriet, however, refused to go back to living as a slave.  Instead she continued heading north towards Pennsylvania.  

Harriet travelled along a network known as the Underground Railroad.  The Underground Railroad wasn’t an actual railroad for a train, it was a path that ran from states that had slavery to states where all people were free. Harriet travelled this path for nearly 90 miles to get to Philadelphia.  She is quoted as saying, “When I found I had crossed [the line into Pennsylvania], I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Harriet was truly happy to be free in a free state.  But rather than remaining safely in the North, Harriet decided that it was her mission in life to rescue her family and others living in slavery back home. 

In 1850, Harriet helped much of her family make the journey to Philadelphia via the Underground Railway. This was the first of many trips that Harriet made along the route to help guide others.  

Because of her work and leadership guiding others to safety and freedom, she was given the nickname “Moses” by the people that she helped.  This was a reference to the leader in the Old Testament who led the people of Israel out of slavery. Over time Harriet was able to help guide her parents, most of her siblings and approximately 60 other people to Pennsylvania where they could live free. 

Because so many slaves had escaped, the States passed laws allowing for former slaves that had escaped their home state to be captured and returned to slavery.  So Harriet changed the route of the Underground Railroad to Canada, where slavery was not allowed.

Harriet continued to help others during the Civil War in America.  She worked for the Union Army as a cook and a nurse, and later an armed scout and spy.  Harriet was the first woman to lead soldiers in the war. She led a raid at the Combahee River that liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.  Liberated means freed from imprisonment or slavery.

In 1859, a Senator who was also an abolitionist sold Harriet a small piece of land in Auburn, New York. Harriet moved there after the war and got remarried and raised children there.  Much of her family came to live with her there as well. 

Even though Harriet became famous for her work to lead slaves to freedom, she did not have a lot of money.  Others who believed in her cause gave money to her to help her live and she shared this money generously with her family and others who needed help. 

When Harriet was an old woman, the head injuries she had gotten as a child became more painful.  She went to a hospital in Boston to get brain surgery to help relieve the pain and the “buzzing” that she had regularly in her ears.  Unfortunately she because sick with pneumonia following the surgery and died in 1913. Harriet was buried with military honours at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

Harriet was known very far and wide while she was alive and she became an American hero and icon after she died.  An icon is a person or thing that is regarded as a symbol. Today, she continues to inspire Americans struggling for civil rights and their allies with her bravery and actions.  Because of her amazing legacy, the U.S. Treasury Department announced in April 2016 that she would replace Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill.  She was a freed slave and a freedom fighter, and for that, she emerged as the top choice for the first American woman to appear on U.S. currency. 

From Harriet Tubman, we can learn a great deal about overcoming hardships and the impact that an individual person can have.  Harriet dedicated her life to helping others.  She believed strongly in the cause she was working for, to free slaves, and took action and worked tirelessly to bring about her dream. 

Are there injustices that you have experienced or that you can see in the world around you?  What are some ways that you can take action to make the world a better place for all and to improve the lives of those who may be suffering?

History of Cleopatra for Kids

Egypt was home to one of the most powerful civilizations of all time. They built the gigantic pyramids that are still standing today. They were led by a king, who they called a pharoah. They believed he was a god and worshipped him. They used advanced math, astronomy, created a system of writing, their own paper and were able to farm the land and build on a massive scale. Their armies were powerful and dangerous and controlled all the land in Northeast Africa for thousands of years! It can be hard to imagine just how long Egypt was in power compared to countries today, but it was much, much longer than British Empire was in power or the United States has been a global power, for example. 

But over time other civilizations became powerful. Eventually, it was the Greeks under Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great was a skilled military hero, who conquered lands all across the Medeterranean and eventually took Egypt. From this time forward Egypt was controlled by the Greeks. When Alexander the Great died, one of his captains named Ptolemy became the new King of Egypt or Pharoah. Ptolemy and his children ruled Egypt from the city of Alexandria for many, many years. And this is where our story about Cleopatra begins. 

Cleopatra was born 69 BCE in the city of Alexandra, Egypt as a princess to the current pharoah, Ptolemy the 7th. Like Alexander the Great, who had conquered Egypt, Cleopatra and her family were Greek, even though they ruled the Egyptian people. She had an older sister named Berenice, a younger sister named Arsinoe and two younger brothers who also had their father’s name of Ptolemy. 

Cleopatra had a good and safe childhood as a princess of Egypt. She probably played dice games popular in Egypt and with carved wooden dolls. Because she might be the pharoah herself someday, she was given a very good education. She had very good teachers and was able to study in the grand library of Alexandria, one of the best libraries in the history of the ancient world. Smart people from all over the world gathered at Alexandria and her library to study and learn from each other. 

At school she memorized long poems and lists of gods, goddesses and heroes. She was taught to speak in front of other people, an important skill as a queen. Cleopatra dressed in beautiful silk robes, wore lots of jewelry and makeup, and made to look like a goddess, since that’s what the people believed she was, as the daughter of a god.  

Unfortunate for Cleopatra, she was born during a time when there were many problems going on in her family and in Egypt. Her father and the pharaohs before him had been poor leaders, so the Egyptian people no longer wanted him as their ruler. When Cleopatra was 11, the people finally made her father, Ptolemy, leave Egypt. 

After Ptolemy left, Cleopatra’s older sister, Berenice became the new pharoah. In order to take power, Berenice had to do some horrible things and Cleopatra watched as all of this happened. The struggles going on her family made her want to stay out of the fighting, but she also watched carefully knowing that someday she may be the one having to take control and rule Egypt. She was very smart and probably already started thinking about what the right moves might be when she was in the same position as her older sister. She also learned that the best rulers were the ones who had the support of their people, unlike her father. She decided the best way to do this was to find ways for the Egyptian people to like her. Cleopatra learned everything she could about the Egyptian people and learned their language. She started dressing like their goddess Isis to gain their support. 

Another great civilization that rose to power after the Greeks was the Roman Empire. They were the most powerful empire during the lifetime of Cleopatra. Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy, after being run out of Egypt, fled to Rome and convinced the Romans to join him and retake control of Egypt. A battle broke out between the fearsome Roman Army and the Egyptians of Alexandria. The Roman Army won the battle and Ptolemy once again became the pharaoh of Egypt. But even though her father was in control again, Cleopatra knew if she made the right moves, she could become the next ruler once he was gone.

And by 51 BCE, Ptolemy died and Cleopatra became the new queen, the Pharoah of Egypt. She was only 18 at the time, but had been preparing for her entire life for the job. She knew she’d have to be very careful and win over the people if she wanted to stay in power. One of her first moves was to take a trip to the city of Thebes by boat in a grand ceremony and declare herself the goddess Isis. Isis was worshipped by the Egyptian people, so she hoped in turn they would worship and honor her.

Sadly, luck turned against Cleopatra though and the Nile River didn’t flood for the first two years she was pharaoh. The Nile River was how the Egyptian people survived when once a year it flooded and watered their farmlands. The people wondered why if Cleopatra was a goddess she wasn’t able to control the Nile. Soon the people were going hungry, because their crops weren’t growing. Guess who they blamed? Yes, Cleopatra. Seeing that the people were growing angry, she decided to leave before they forced her out. But did Cleopatra give up easily? No. Right away she started plans for how she would return to power. In the desert she used her mastery of language to start making allies, which means friends with those who she could join with, warriors who could help her become pharaoh again.

Around this time a war was going on in Rome between two generals, Pompey and Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar won and after beating Pompey and taking control over the entire Roman Empire as its first emperor, he headed to Egypt to make sure it was also under his control. When he arrived, Cleopatra’s younger brother, Ptolemy, was the pharaoh. Caesar wanted Ptolemy and Cleopatra to work together to figure out who should rule Egypt, but Cleopatra was afraid her brother might try to harm her when she returned from the desert. So she came up with a very cunning plan. Cunning means to be very tricky and smart. With the help of her friend, Apollodorus, Cleopatra put on a disguise and rowed up the Nile River to Alexandria in a small boat. After reaching the palace, she climbed into a big sack and had Apollodorus carry her over his shoulder. No one knew he was carrying Cleopatra as he walked across the grounds of the palace and right into the room where Julius Caesar was waiting. Next, Cleopatra climbed out of the bag to Caesar’s great surprise! 

Cleopatra then used her great skills of talking and persuasion to convince Julius Caesar to let her be the Pharaoh of Egypt in place of her brother. Caesar agreed to let her rule with her brother, who was angry with the decision. Her brother, Ptolemy’s army later attacked too, but Ceasar’s army was more powerful and won The Alexandrian War and Ptolemy did not survive, leaving Cleopatra once again in control of Egypt. After the war Julius Caesar stayed in Egypt and Cleopatra became his wife. They travelled up and down the Nile and had a child together and named him Caesarion, which means “Little Caesar.” Eventually, they returned to Rome together. 

The Roman people liked Caesar, but the other leaders did not. They did not like that he had become an emperor and also did not like that he had married a woman who was not Roman. While in Rome, one of Julius Caesar’s friends, Brutus, and the other leaders turned against him and Caesar did not survive their attacks. The reign of Emperor Caesar was over, so Cleopatra left Rome and returned to Egypt.

While Cleopatra was in Egypt, a new war in Rome began over who would lead the empire. The battle was fought between one of Caesar’s generals, Mark Antony and Brutus and Cassius. This was called the Roman Civil War. Mark Antony eventually sailed to Rome to gain Cleopatra’s support. At first she was unsure if she should befriend him, because she wasn’t sure which side would win the war. Eventually, she met him on the Nile in one of her huge, decorated boats. She was dressed as the goddesses Isis, the boat was covered in flowers, small torches, and purple sails making it a beautiful sight to behold. When Mark Antony met Cleopatra he was stunned by her beauty and her power of speech and persuasion. Soon, he and Cleopatra were a couple and spent the next several months sailing together along the Nile and throwing huge parties together at Cleopatra’s palace. They paid for huge feasts and dancers and acrobats. These were some of the biggest parties Egypt had ever seen!

While Mark Antony was away from Rome, Julius Caesar’s nephew, Octavian had risen to power. Mark Antony knew it was time for him to give up the parties and his time with Cleopatra and return to battle to conquer his own lands. He left Egypt and fought far away while Octavian won the Civil War and now wanted to make sure Mark Antony wasn’t a threat. He sailed to Egypt to finish him off. In Egypt, Cleopatra and Mark Antony joined forces to fight Octavian. Their ships and soldiers battled on the ocean, but Octavian’s navy was stronger and he beat Cleopatra and Mark Antony. They retreated to the big city of Alexandria and waited for Octavian to come after them. Cleopatra and Mark Antony loved each other and refused to be separated during their final days. They passed away in Alexandria together, where a funeral was also held in honor of them. The Egyptian people were sad to see their goddess queen, their pharaoh go.

History of Bessie Coleman for Kids

Imagine you’re a pilot, thousands of feet above the earth on an airplane. You look down from your cockpit at the patchwork of fields and tiny, Lego-sized houses below you. You’re planning your route, but you’re not trying to get from point A to point B. Instead of flying a straight line, you dive towards the ground, falling faster and faster until, just feet from the ground, you pull up the nose of the plane, thrilling the crowd of onlookers nearby. You corkscrew through the air, fly figure eights, and loop upside down as the crowds gasp and cheer below. You are a barnstormer, a stunt pilot in the 1920s, performing daredevil feats thousands of feet above your awestruck fans. 

Today we’re going to learn about a world-famous pilot, Bessie Coleman, who was remarkable but for many other reasons. She was not only a great pilot, she was also the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the first woman anywhere to have an international pilot’s license. Because her father was part Native American, she was also the first Native American female pilot. Not only that, she always tried to use her fame to help other black people and women. Sadly, at the time, both groups experienced a lot of discrimination in America. 

Bessie’s story begins before airplanes were even invented, and only 27 years after the end of slavery in the United States. She was born in 1892 to African American sharecroppers in Texas, one of nine children. As a child, and then teenager, she worked picking cotton and washing other people’s laundry. She attended segregated schools, but was a good student, especially in math. Under segregation, many states in the southern part of the United States had laws forcing blacks to go to different schools from whites, among other unfair rules. Even though she came from a poor background, and had to deal with unfair laws, Bessie had a goal of going to college, and as a young woman attended Langston University in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, she ran out of money and had to return home after one term. 

Soon after returning home, Bessie and two of her brothers decided to try to start a new life in Chicago. They moved north, where Bessie became a manicurist. She worked in a barber shop called the White Sox Barber Shop on the south side of Chicago. She became known for having the fastest hands in the city when it came to giving manicures.

She learned about piloting and airplanes from veterans, including her brothers, who had returned home from World War I. Bessie became fascinated by airplanes and flying. Her brothers would tease her though, saying she’d never be able to fly like some of the women they’d met in France during the war. 

But telling someone they can’t do something is often a sure-fire way to make them want to do it. So right then and there, Bessie decided she would become a pilot and prove her brothers wrong. But her brothers, weren’t the only people she’d have to prove wrong. At the time, there were no flight schools in the United States that would train women or African Americans. 

But there was France. Bessie didn’t have a lot of money, but she knew that if she could get to France, she could train as a pilot there. Her race and gender didn’t matter to the flight schools in France. To earn the money she would need, she began working a second job at a chili restaurant and learning French at night. She also began talking to some of the people who came to the barbershop. Many of the clients there were wealthy and influential.

It was at the barber shop that she met a lawyer and newspaper owner named Robert Abbot. Abbot published the Chicago Defender, one of the largest black-owned newspapers in the country. When he learned about Bessie’s passion to become a pilot, he decided to help. He published a story about her in his paper. His newspaper had more readers than any other black-owned newspaper in the country at the time, so the story got a lot of attention. A banker named Jesse Binga stepped up, and he and The newspaper helped pay for Bessie’s travel to Paris for pilot training. 

Since airplanes were so new, it was still not possible to fly across the Atlantic ocean from the US to France, so Bessie took a boat. She had been accepted to a flight school there, and completed her training in a biplane called a Nieuport 80. A biplane had two sets of wings, one on top of the other.

When Bessie returned to the US with her pilot’s license, she made headlines in black newspapers and aviation magazines across the country. She told reporters that she wanted to open a flight school for women and people of color. 

However, since aviation was so new, there weren’t many jobs for pilots at the time. There were no major airlines that flew people around the country like there are now. Most packages and mail were still moved by trains or ships. And again, Bessie faced discrimination because of her race and gender. She was unable to get one of the few piloting jobs there were.  

Instead of flying for airlines or shipping companies like they do now, many pilots in the 1920s earned money as barnstormers. They would fly to a new town, land in a farm, and ask the farmer to let them perform using their fields as runways. They performed stunts such as loops, dives, and figure eights. They also offered rides to people for money. Bessie decided to become a stunt pilot, and returned to France for more training. 

After Bessie returned to the US this time, she traveled around the country performing daredevil stunts for crowds of people. The Defender newspaper called her “the world’s greatest woman flyer.” She was nicknamed “Queen Bess” and “Brave Bess.”

Bessie loved her job, and used her growing fame to fight racism. In the 1920s, segregation and discrimination were still widespread in America, and were part of the law in many states. Bessie worked with other activists and gave interviews and speeches about ending racism. She refused to participate in any air show that didn’t allow black people to attend. In her hometown in Texas, she had to argue with the producers of an airshow to allow blacks and whites to come in through the same gate, but even then, they were forced to sit in a separate section.

Bessie became so well known, she was asked to star in a movie about a female pilot. Though the movie was to be made by a black-owned production company, Bessie was not happy with how they wanted to portray her. They asked her to wear rags and act as though she was uneducated, negative stereotypes of black people that were very common at the time. Bessie refused. She walked off the set and didn’t return. She wasn’t interested in being famous just for attention. She wanted to use her fame to improve conditions for other African Americans, and she realized  that this movie would not help her do that. 

But other opportunities awaited Bessie. A company that made tires in Oakland, California reached out to her. They wanted her to be their spokesperson and fly over the city dropping messages on paper about their tires. Bessie accepted the offer and went to California. There she flew and appeared in newspaper ads for the tire company. 

It was also in California that Bessie experienced another setback, this time a more serious one. In February 1923, she crashed her plane after the engine stopped working suddenly. She survived with a broken leg and ribs, as well as some cuts. The injuries didn’t stop her though: She said that as soon as she could walk again, she would fly. After several months, she fully recovered and went back to stunt flying. 

Bessie moved to Florida, where a preacher and his wife had offered to give her a room. She opened a beauty salon, still trying to earn enough money to replace the plane that had crashed. She began performing new types of stunts such as wing-walking and parachute jumps. Wing-walkers stunned their audiences by leaving the cockpit while another pilot controlled the plane, and walking out on the wings!   

Finally, in 1926, Bessie had earned enough money to buy her own plane! She had worked hard performing in airshows, giving lectures, and working at her beauty parlor. The new plane wasn’t fancy: an old biplane called a Curtiss JN-4, or “Jenny.” She hired a mechanic named William Wills to fly it from Texas to Florida. Sadly, the plane was not in good condition. During a test flight with the mechanic, the plane stalled and crashed. Bessie did not survive the crash.

News of Queen Bess’s passing was carried widely in African American newspapers. Ten thousand people attended her funeral in Chicago, where Ida B. Wells, a famous black activist, led the service. 

Bessie continued to inspire black aviators in the 1920s and beyond. William J Powell, another African American aviator and civil rights activist, started Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, fulfilling her dream of opening a flight school for African Americans and women. Powell later wrote in his book, Black Wings, that because of Bessie, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.” 

She was also an inspiration to many of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of black aviators to fly for the United States Army. In 1992, Mae Jemison took a portrait of Bessie Coleman with her when she became the first black woman in space, saying that Bessie “exemplifies and serves as a model for all humanity, the very definition of strength, dignity, courage, integrity, and beauty.” The US postal service issued a Bessie Coleman stamp in 1995, and in 2006, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. 

Bessie Coleman once said that “the air is the only place free of prejudices.” But, in order to get there, she had to shatter many barriers that were placed in her path by a society that was unwelcoming to people of her race and gender. Instead of accepting the place she was offered in this society, Bessie decided to pursue her own path and make her own opportunities. She didn’t let the lack of training or jobs for black, female pilots keep her from her dream of flying. She forged ahead with determination and held onto her principles, knowing that her race and gender were not barriers to her ability; that she could lift others up by her example; and there was a place for everybody in the sky! 

Sources

https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/bessie-coleman-the-first-female-african-american-pilot
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/bessie-coleman
https://www.cradleofaviation.org/history/history/women-in-aviation/bessie-coleman.html

http://www.bessiecoleman.org/bio-bessie-coleman.php 

History of Miguel Hidalgo for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine that you are hiking through a dense jungle in Mexico.  The leaves around you are thick and wet. You use a sword to chop your way ahead. Sometimes you stumble and fall on roots or get stuck in vines that block your path. The weather is hot and humid. Your body is covered in sweat. You are thirsty and your muscles are tired and ache, but you keep moving. You keep pressing on. A long line of fellow Mexicans are hiking with you, moving quietly towards your goal. You and your fellow soldiers are determined to defeat the Spanish who rule your country. You want them to leave so you can rule it yourselves. Leading your group is a priest who has great ideas of how Mexico can be independent, can become its own country, free from Spanish rule.  You are following one of the most famous Mexican men in history: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, also known as the “Father of Mexico.”

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Mexican Catholic priest who called for a revolution, or rebellion, against the Spanish government in 1810.  Hidalgo, as he is commonly known, is thought of as the “Father of Mexican Independence” due to his role in helping the mexican people fight against Spanish rulers. 

In 1753 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was born near Guanajuato, Mexico.  At that time, the name of the country was not Mexico, but rather it was called “New Spain” because Europeans from Spain had settled in the area and claimed it as their own. But most of the people living in Mexico weren’t from Spain, they and their ancestors had lived there long before the Spanish arrived and conquered their lands. 

Miguel was the second son of Cristobal Hidalgo y Costilla and Ana Maria Gallaga Mandarte y Villasenor.  Miguel’s dad was an administrator, or government worker of the hacienda, or town. 

When Miguel was growing up, his family was fairly rich, so he had a good, easy life.  He was considered to be a “creole” person, which means his ancestors were Spanish.  He had loving parents and had fun with his older brother Jose Joaquin.  

When Miguel was 12, his father sent him and his brother Jose Joaquin to the city of (Vaya-dolid) Valladolid to go to school.  Miguel studied religion and after completing a lot of courses on various religious topics, or courses about God and the meaning of life, he became a Catholic priest in 1778.  

After he was a priest, Miguel Hidalgo became known as Father Hidalgo. He returned to his hometown university to teach philosophy, which means the study of how humans think, and theology, which means the study of God.  

Now that Miguel was an adult and a priest, he was able to travel and meet people.  He loved to learn and was particularly interested in European ways and thinking.  This was not the normal path for a Mexican Catholic priest in the 18th century!  Most priests stayed in their church area and spent their days praying.  But Miguel was too curious about the world and too social to stay in one place and not ask questions and learn new things. This is the best way to learn new things, be curious and ask questions! 

Even thought he was different from most priests at the time, Miguel became the rector, or leader, of the church of San Nicolas in 1790.  Unfortunately though, the other priests in the area did not like the way he behaved, so he was only in the role as rector for two years. 

Father Hidalgo moved on to lead the churches in the towns of Colima and then San Felipe Torres Mochas and later Dolores. Besides studying, he also grew grape vines and olive trees in the church gardens.  He opened a pottery-making studio, or art area, and taught himself to make pots. He had many hobbies to keep his life interesting. 

Father Hidalgo was very giving and showed compassion for poor people in the towns where he lived.  Compassion means concern for someone’s suffering. Father Hidalgo put on classes to teach poor people skills that they could use to make money, like carpentry, or woodworking, and blacksmithing, which means to make things out of iron or metal. 

Because of his interest in learning and philosophy, Father Hidalgo became very involved with the small group of educated people that lived in his town.  These educated people had gone to university and learned about politics and government and they weren’t happy with the way that Spain was controlling their country of New Spain. Remember at this time Spain controlled Mexico and didn’t let them vote or make their own decisions.  

In 1808, a new Spanish leader named Joseph was put in charge of the Spanish territories, including New Spain, where Father Hidalgo lived.  The people of New Spain did not like their new rulers, as they were mean and greedy.  He and his friends planned to remove the Spanish rulers from being in charge and get their old king, the King of Spain, released and put back in place as their leader. 

The Spanish rulers learned that there was a secret plot to take over, so Father Hidalgo and his friends had to speed up their plans. In Dolores, Father Hidalgo climbed to the top of the church where he lived and with all of his might rang the church bell.  This was the signal that their fight against their Spanish rulers had begun. Then, he went outside the church and waved a banner of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. This was September 16, 1810 and became a famous event called the Grito de Dolores or “Cry of Dolores”. This was the beginning of the Mexican people’s fight for freedom.

Father Hidalgo’s second in command was a military captain named Ignacio Allende.  Together Father Hidalgo and Captain Allende led a group of creole and first nations men into towns and cities near where they lived.  They gathered more men in the towns and cities and slowly the size of their group grew.  With each town they moved through, the group took control of the Spanish government and replaced it with their own. 

Unfortunately as the group grew bigger, so did it’s problems.  Father Hidalgo’s goal was to take power back from the Spanish. But the group of men that became his followers grew more and more violent.  The Catholic Church was not happy about what they saw happening.  They removed Father Hidalgo from his role as priest and member of the Church.

Miguel was no longer called “Father Hidalgo” anymore, but that didn’t stop him from his mission of removing the Spanish from power in his country.  Miguel and his followers continued to move through more cities until they finally arrived at Mexico City, the biggest city in Mexico.  

There, the Spanish were ready with their army. Gunshots rang out, smoke filled the air, a battle broke out between the Spanish army and Miguel’s army. Soon Miguel and his army had to retreat or move back to safety, in a city called Guadalajara.  There, Miguel formed a new small government that declared that they were in charge.  One of the first things his government did was declare an end to slavery and promise to return lands to the Indigenous people.  These were very modern ideas for the time. 

In Guadalajara, Miguel also started a newspaper called El Despertador Americano, which means “The American Alarm Clock.”  The newspaper published stories and information about the revolution.  Revolution means a forced overthrow of the government. They were determined to become free from Spanish rule. 

In January 1811, Miguel and his men gathered at Calderon Bridge outside of the city of Guadelajara to meet a small Spanish army for a battle.  The Spanish army was well trained and well armed. Weapons were fired. The Spanish had a better army and Miguel and his soldiers had to run away.  After this loss, Miguel’s friend, Captain Allende, became the new leader of the group of rebel fighters.

But some of the survivors of the battle followed Miguel north to join a group that was setting up in what is now the American city of San Antonio.  Along the way they were captured by the Spanish army near a town called Coahuila. The group members were put on trial and were found guilty of fighting against the ruling Spanish.

Miguel and his fellow soldiers had fought bravely but did not survive to continue fighting with their fellow countrymen. But the revolution that he started continued even after he was gone.  In 1821, Mexico eventually won the war against Spain and became independent. If you live in the United States, this event was similar to Independence Day when Americans became free from British and the King’s rule.

September 16 is now celebrated as Mexico’s Independence Day, similar to the 4th of July in the United States. This is the day Mexico became its own country. Every year on this date, Mexican people celebrate their heritage and brave people like Miguel Hidalgo who fought for their freedom.  Usually the President of Mexico will do the same thing Hidalgo did, go to the church’s bell tower and ring the bell to signal the start of the war of Independence called the “Grito de Dolores” or “Cry of Dolores.”

After he died, Miguel’s remains were buried in a monument in Mexico City, now called the Angel of Independence monument.  This monument celebrates the “Father of Mexican Independence” which is Miguel Hidalgo’s nickname.  There is also a state in Mexico named after Miguel, called Hidalgo, and the town that Miguel was originally a priest at is now known as “Dolores Hidalgo.”

We can learn a lot from Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. He was very curious and was always learning. He also had many hobbies to keep life interesting. He was also very brave and risked his life to push out the Spanish rulers who controlled his country.  He was organized and a strong leader, and passionate about freedom, and because of this he had many people who followed him into battle and believed in his cause.  Because of his bravery and beliefs, Miguel is now remembered as the “Father of Mexican Independence.” 

Learning about Miguel is also a great chance to learn more about Mexico, it’s people and its culture. Mexico has a vibrant culture with delicious food, music, dancing, and artwork. Family is very important in a culture where they take care of each other and meet often to eat and enjoy time together. Mexican culture has also become a big part of American culture, seeing that over 36 million people living in the United States are of Mexican ancestry.  Be sure to look up some videos about Mexico and Mexican culture. One of our family’s favorite movies is Pixar’s “Coco.” Be sure to check it out if you haven’t yet.

Thanks for listening to this episode about Miguel Hidalgo and be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

History of Florence Nightingale for Kids & Families

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a soldier in a war. But you’re not on the battlefield. Instead, you’re lying in bed recovering from injuries you received in battle. The room is pitch black and it’s been a long night, and you are very uncomfortable. You are sad and not feeling well. You miss your family back at home and wish you were not sick. But suddenly, you hear a door open and you turn and look down the hall. There’s light from a lamp and it’s moving toward you. You smile because you know who it is. A woman, a nurse, stops by you and puts her hand on your shoulder. “How are you feeling,” she asks. “Can I get you anything?” She gives you a drink of water. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she says and then walks away to attend to another soldier. You felt lonely and sad but now you feel much better, thanks to the woman who would become one of the most famous nurses of all time, the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. 

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820. Her parents were English, which means from England, but at the time they were living in the city of Florence, Italy. And this is where she got her name, Florence! The Nightingales were a very wealthy family. Her father was a London banker. Florence and her sister had a very easy, privileged life. Growing up they got to travel all over Europe as a family. Imagine how interesting that would have been! After their travels, they settled in their home country, England. There they had two homes, a summer house in Derbyshire and a winter house in Hampshire. With the homes came servants who took care of them and all of the housekeeping. Like I said, a pretty easy life for the girls and the parents who had plenty of money to live in comfort.

During the 1800s most girls didn’t get a great education. But William Nightingale wanted the best for his daughters, so he took a special interest in their learning and taught them various subjects like history, geography, and literature. Florence was a very gifted child and soaked up everything her father taught her. Even at a young age with lots of practice, she could speak in several languages: French, German, Latin, Greek, Italian, and Latin. 

In the time Florence lived, called the Victorian era, women from wealthy families were expected to only handle housework (with the servants doing most of the work) and host guests. They weren’t supposed to look for jobs or earn money. Florence saw this but wanted something different. She wanted to work for herself and earn money for herself. She wasn’t satisfied with the way the world was. She wanted to find her purpose in life and believed there was more for her than simply running the home and taking care of guests. At an early age, she decided her calling in life would be to help others, to ease their suffering. She loved taking care of sick pets and servants. Being a nurse seemed like a natural fit for desire to help others.

So Florence mustered up the courage and went to her parents to tell them she wanted to be a nurse. They were very upset and refused to let her do it. They told her she wasn’t allowed to go to nursing school. In their minds, this was very inappropriate for a woman of her wealth and status. Like I said, it was a very different time and Florence was going against what was normal in her day.


But do you think Florence just went along with it? Nope. She was determined to become a nurse so she could help others.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion, her father gave in and she packed up her bags and moved to Germany to go to nursing school. The school was called the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses. There she learned all the important skills to take care of other’s medical needs. Florence was a fast learner, so she made quick progress and after moving back to England soon became the head of a hospital in London. 

In 1854, a war broke out between the countries of Turkey and Russia. Did you know there was a country called Turkey? It’s a big country on the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and the Middle East. The war became Russia and Turkey later became known as the Crimean War. Since England, Russia and France were allies, British soldiers were sent to fight in the war. To help sick and injured soldiers, a hospital was set up in Scutari, Turkey. And sadly due to the war, many injured soldiers ended up in the hospital. But the soldiers weren’t being taken care of properly. And this means soldiers who didn’t receive the proper care, often did not survive. Leaders at the time wondered what to do and someone suggested just the person to help – Nurse extraordinaire, Florence Nightingale! Florence was a friend of the Minister of War’s wife and he requested her to accept the job.

So, Florence, not being one to waste time, quickly went to work assembling a team of 34 nurses and all of the supplies they’d need to help the soldiers waiting in the hospital far away in Turkey. 

When Florence and the nurses arrived in Turkey, they were shocked at what they saw! The hospital was so overcrowded that soldiers had to sleep on the floor. And it was very unhygienic, which means it was unclean and it’s very important that a hospital is kept clean because if not germs can flourish and make sick soldiers even sicker. There were puddles of drain water everywhere — and worst of all rats! It was no wonder all of the soldiers were getting infected!

Florence knew if the soldiers were to get better, the hospital would have to change. Right away. With money from England, she quickly improved the conditions. She ordered new equipment, cleaned up the rooms, and even set up the kitchen to serve better quality food. All of her training as a nurse was being put to good use to save the lives of the soldiers and improve their quality of care. She was a true nurse who properly cared for her suffering patients. 

You’d think with all of this busyness, Florence would just want to rest at night. But at all hours, Florence kept an eye on her patients. At night she used to make her rounds, checking on each and every soldier. She used a lamp to light her way and the soldiers named her “the Lady with the Lamp”. Imagine if you were a soldier suffering and could not sleep at night. Imagine what it would feel like to see that lamplight coming down the hall and know that someone cared for you and was checking in on you. This is the kind of care Florence gave! She also wrote letters to the home of the soldiers who were unable to do it themselves and found ways to entertain them.

Thanks to Florence and other nurse’s hard work and selfless service, the conditions in the hospital barracks started to change. The mortality rate, which is the number of deaths in a certain period of time, decreased by two percent. This means that more and more soldiers were starting to survive their injuries!

This was such exciting news that papers back in London started writing articles about Florence Nightingale. People started calling her a heroine. Even the Queen of England wrote her a thank you letter!

After the Crimean War ended, Florence’s work did not. After seeing how poor the conditions were in Turkey, she set out on her new mission to make hospitals better across the empire. She met up with important figures such as Queen Victoria to discuss her ideas. Eventually, the army started training doctors and nurses to take care of soldiers with the care and concern Florence would give them.

To honor her service, the government decided to create a fund as a token of their appreciation and gratitude. They called it the Nightingale Fund and through it a big sum of money was raised and gifted to Florence to use however she pleased. In 1860, Florence set up her own institute called The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

The school gave hope to women who wanted to work and service and earn their own living. It made training and schooling more normal for women in their society. It was an excellent school, one of the first to be developed based on accurate scientific methods. In fact, it was so advanced that most of the techniques that Florence developed in the school are still in practice today! And to this day, she is considered one of the founders of nursing training. 

Florence believed that nursing starts from the home. With this, she set up various training camps in smaller neighborhoods so the women of lower class could learn from her. This improved the level of health in poor families immensely. Not only was Florence a full-time professional nurse, she also published many books on nursing and healthcare. Her most famous writing is the Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not which is the best guidebook for household nursing. It has detailed step-by-step procedures on how to best tend to a patient at home.

To honor her service, there are plaques and statues of Florence Nightingale all around the globe. Three statues of Florence are in Derby, England alongside numerous plaques. From Los Angeles in the USA to Andhra Pradesh in India and in Kawanishi in Japan, various countries have put up statues in respect of The Lady with the Lamp.

Spend some time thinking about how Florence lived her life and the change for good she made in the lives of others. Do you like caring for others? What does it feel like after you help someone? It feels good inside, doesn’t it? Florence saw suffering around her and did whatever she could to help. For you, this might start small by helping a sibling when they are trying to tie their shoe or make their breakfast. Or it might mean helping your parents when they are sick — remember how much they helped you when you were sick! In fact, just the other day I wasn’t feeling well and my kids brought me some food and water and it made me feel much better. Next time you’re given the opportunity to serve others, remember Florence Nightingale and the change she made in the lives of others one individual at a time!

History of Julius Caesar for Kids

Have you ever wondered what our calendar is the way it is, with 12 months and 365 days? In ancient times, many of the discoveries and inventions were made in the city of Rome. Romans invented the calendar we use today, however, it was inaccurate and did not follow the seasons. So, the emperor Julius Caesar made some corrections and improved it to the version we know today. One that is based on the Sun, has 365 days and 12 months and matches the season.

Now that we know something about Julius Caesar, let’s learn about who he really was. Gaius Julius Caesar was born in July, 100 BC in Suburra, the city of Rome. His parents were nobles in the city. They were well-known, but not rich. As a young boy, Julius Caesar started his education at the young age of six and learned important skills from his tutor. He was taught to develop excellent speaking skills and exceptional leadership qualities. It was only because his parents wanted him to become a noble just like them and even become a King, someday.

By the time he turned sixteen, his father passed away and he became the head of household. All the responsibilities of the house were now his and he had to represent his house in the court of nobles. At the age of seventeen, Julius got married to Cornelia, the daughter of a powerful politician. During that time, there was a fight between his two uncles. Julius didn’t want to fight with his family members and thought that it was foolish. So, to escape the fight, he joined the army and left Rome. 

Julius fought many wars and became a brave warrior who started getting recognition in the army. Quickly, he began to reach higher ranks in the government. He made friends with many influential leaders namely Crassus who was a wealthy businessman and General Pompey, who was the best military commander back then. Influential means having power and wealth. By the time Caesar returned to Rome, he was famous among the people and was loved widely due to his victories and good speaking skills. 

By the age of forty, he was elected as the consul. Consul was the uppermost rank in the Roman government, similar to a president. He remained in this position for one year. Then, he was appointed the governor of a province named Gaul. As a result, he was granted four legions. Legions are large groups of soldiers in the military who protect the cities and during wars, fight the battles.

Julius was an extraordinary general. Gaul was surrounded by tribes who did not live according to the Roman rule. The military feared them as they had a very strong army. However, the troops were divided among themselves and fought with each other. Taking advantage of their internal conflict, Caesar led his troops into battle against them and became victorious. Due to his smart thinking, he managed to conquer all of Gaul. His strategic insight gained him the respect of his army. Strategic insight means the someone’s ability to find solutions to big problems. After his success, Julius Caesar was considered to be as good in war strategy as the great General Pompey. Nowadays, historians consider him as one of the best military commanders in history.

While he was in position as governor, the politics in Rome became very aggressive. Many leaders started to dislike Julius Caesar because of his success. Even General Pompey, who used to be a good friend of Julius became jealous. This jealousy turned hostile and the two old friends turned into big rivals. While Julius Caesar was supported and loved by the people, Pompey had the support of the corrupt people who were actually nobles and rich businessmen. 

Caesar then decided to run for consul again. He announced his intentions to gain the support of his people but the Roman Senate was against him. A Senate is a house for the noble people to make decisions for the city. Because they didn’t like him, the Senate asked Julius to give up his post as the General of the Army. It was a dreadful demand! Hence, Caesar refused. The government could not accept that he had dared to defy them so they called him a traitor of the nation. 

Both sides declared war. This was the Great Civil War of Rome that lasted four years. Caesar began marching his army towards Rome to fight against the Senate. General Pompey was leading the soldiers of the Senate. Caesar won the battle and gained total control of Rome. He kept fighting Pompey till he finally defeated him eighteen months later. By this time, he had managed to chase him all the way to Egypt. Pompey fled to save his life but was unfortunately captured by the Pharaoh who had him executed and presented to Julius Caesar as a gift. The Pharaohs were the ancient rulers of Egypt. 

This victory in war made Julius Caesar the most powerful man in the world. He returned to his home, the Roman Empire, in 46 BC.  He managed to crush everyone who resisted him in the government and was appointed “Dictator Perpetuo” which means “dictator forever”. When he came to power, Rome was suffering from financial (or money) issues because of the wars it was always fighting. It was very expensive to wage war and sent all of the workers off to battle. Julius changed the government and made improvements for the poor. He even passed various laws, ultimately bringing Rome back to its former glory. 

Julius Caesar made countless great changes to Rome and transformed it into the magnificent city it is today. He ordered the rebuilding of the great city Carthage which was destroyed in the Punic wars. It was a part of ancient civilization and later became the second largest city in Rome. 

One of his best achievements was the Julian Calendar which is the basis for our calendar we use today. Not only was he a  warrior, he was very learned. He was also said to be one of the best writers in Rome. He wrote several poems and many books. One of his books, the first text was assigned to students of Latin. 

On March 15, 44 BC some people of Rome, including other leaders in the government, were unhappy with his rule. They thought that he was too powerful and he would destroy the Roman Empire, which was based on a republic, ruled by a group of leaders rather than one. So they decided to put an end to his rule. Cassius and Brutus, Julius’s two best friends led the plot to assassinate him. When Julius Caesar entered the senate, they crept up to him and murdered him in cold blood. His death is still remembered today on 15th March as the Ides of March.

Julius Caesar was very ambitious, which means he worked very hard to be smart and strong so he could become powerful in his country. He increased his power through violence and eventually took control over all of Rome. Historical people like Julius have many sides, which means they do some good things, but also some bad things as well. Take some time to reflect on this and think of people you know who may have good traits and not so good traits. But regardless, Julius Caesar will go down in history as one of the most influential leaders of all time.

History of Babe Ruth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a stadium with crowds of people all around you. You smell buttery popcorn and freshly cooked hot dogs. “Peanuts! Popcorn!” A vendor yells from across the aisle. “Get your peanuts, popcorn!” As everyone gets seated there is a feeling of excitement in the air. The loudspeakers start playing, “Take me out to the ballgame!” The crowd sings along. You hear the crack of a baseball against a bat. The game has begun! 

If you’re familiar with baseball do these nicknames sound familiar? The Sultan of Swat? The Great Bambino? The Colossus of Clout? These are all nicknames for one of the most famous baseball players to have ever lived, Babe Ruth!

Babe Ruth’s real name was George Herman Ruth Jr. and he was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 6, 1895. His grandparents were immigrants from Europe, so the first language he spoke was German. Growing up, his dad owned and ran a saloon. There, Ruth really did whatever he wanted. He didn’t have many rules and just ran wild with his friends through the streets of town. And with his dad being busy with the business, Ruth got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he got into so much trouble and his parents couldn’t control him that they put him in St. Mary’s Industrial School. This was a special school for boys who needed more structure than their parents were able to give them at home. At the school, one of his teachers, Brother Matthais, loved baseball. He taught the boys how to play and Ruth got into the game, too. Ruth ended up living at the school for 12 years and there got a basic education and learned some life skills. He used these skills and became a shirtmaker and could make things out of wood, known as carpentry. 

Ruth kept playing baseball and when he was 19 tried and made the minor league team for the Baltimore Orioles. The other players teased Ruth because he was the favorite or “darling” of the owner, Jack Dunn. Because of this they started calling him “Babe”!  This is how Babe Ruth’s famous nickname was born! Even though Babe Ruth was a big success with the Orioles, the owner ran into money trouble and he was forced to sell his best players to the Major Leagues.

From there Ruth was sent to play for the Boston Red Sox. When Ruth first started playing, he was a left-handed pitcher but really wanted to bat more, so he started playing outfield and first base. Ruth tried to hit almost everything, and because of that, he struck out a lot! But he was very determined and never gave up. He even said that “Every strike brings me closer to the next homerun”. And the Red Sox fans loved him, because he did hit a lot of homeruns! One year he hit home runs in 4 games in a row. The next year, he helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1918. 

In 1919 Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox sold him because the owner wanted more money and Babe Ruth was worth a lot. And the New York Yankees wanted him because they hoped he could help them win a World Series. There were lots of mixed reactions to him being traded. Some Boston fans were devastated to lose Ruth, while others thought he was too much trouble. While he wasn’t playing baseball, he spent a lot of time partying and sometimes getting into trouble. But the Boston fans who liked Ruth, believed that trading him started an 84 year “curse”, during which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. It was called “The Curse of the Bambino”. Before he was traded, the Red Sox had won 5 of the 15 World Series that had been played. But after they sold Ruth they didn’t win another World Series until 2004. 

With Ruth, the New York Yankees did very well! In fact, they won the World Series 4 times, and they won the American league title 7 times! When Ruth was traded to the Yankees he became a full time outfielder, and was now able to bat all the time. He hit home run after home run and the New York fans loved him! During his first year, the Yankees had a record number of people at the stadium, 1.2 million people. It was the first time that any Major League Baseball game attendance had reached 1 million. During his 13 years with the Yankees, he became the highest paid player up to that point, making 2 ½  times more than any other player in the league. At the time, Ruth even made more than the president of the United States! On the team he was part of a group of players called Murderers Row. They got that name from the power of the hitters. The players were Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, and Babe Ruth. 

Sadly, Ruth spent many years of his life drinking too much alcohol and not taking care of his health. He also spent most of the money he made on things he didn’t need and that didn’t help better his life. Because of his poor health choices, he began to have trouble running the bases and catching the ball. He played his last full season with the Yankees in 1934. 

Ruth wanted to become a manager of a team himself but didn’t have any luck finding a position. But like hitting home runs, Ruth was never one to give up. He once said “you just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”  

Eventually he was traded to the Boston Braves as a “gate attraction.” This means he was hired not necessarily because he was good anymore, but because he’d been famous and would cause people to pay to come to the game to see him. 

He retired early that year in 1935. The next year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Babe Ruth became popular at a time when baseball became very popular in the United States and known as “America’s Pastime.” One reason was because the world had just gone through the first World War and then the 1918 flu pandemic, which were very tragic times and many lives were lost. America needed something good and positive to focus on. Baseball and sports figures like Babe Ruth became a symbol of that optimism and fun pastime. He also symbolized an American Dream that someone who came from very little money and didn’t have a well-known family could become famous. His life also showed us that it’s important to take care of yourself and set rules for yourself. If we want our bodies to work well we need to take care of them by eating good foods and exercising.

Babe Ruth worked very hard and took risks to become one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. He once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” This means there are many things you can worry about in life or fears that may keep you from acting. But like Babe Ruth said, if you worry too much about “striking out,” you’ll never get those things done and “swing the bat” and make the moves you need to take the next step in life. For you this might mean trying out for a sport or learning how to draw or some other skill. Don’t worry about what others might say or do, don’t worry about “striking out” and just act like Babe Ruth! 

The History of Boudica for Kids

When you think of Great Britain, what do you think of? A modern country with a prime minister, democratic elections, and people from all over the world? Or maybe you think of the kings and queens who ruled for hundreds of years; or the royal family of today, with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, and Prince Harry. Or maybe you think of it as your home! 

Today, we’re going to travel to Britain, but it will be the Britain of almost 2,000 years ago. This was before the kings and queens we think of as being a major part of England’s history, before the modern country with a prime minister and parliament.  We are going to meet a queen though. This queen ruled an ancient tribe called the Iceni (eye-seen-eye). She inspired her people and made great sacrifices for them when they needed it most. They needed an inspiring leader, because this was a troubling time for them. This was a time when their island was becoming part of the Roman Empire. 

But wait, isn’t Rome in Italy? Yes, it is, you don’t need to check your atlas. Although the city of Rome is in Italy, and has been for thousands of years, in ancient times, Rome was also an empire. This meant that they went out and conquered, or took over control of many areas far from their original city and surrounding region. By the first century before the common era, the Roman empire had reached Britain’s doorstep, and they didn’t plan to knock politely and ask to be let in. 

Before the Romans came along, much of England was inhabited by people called Celts (Kelts). There were many Celtic tribes with many names. They shared a similar culture and similar languages. Together, these tribes were often called the Britons, and you’ll hear me use that term as well today. Sometimes the tribes fought with each other, but they had a thriving and complex society. They worked both iron and bronze to make tools, jewelry, drinkware and other items. They worshipped their own gods, built houses and forts, farmed the land, and issued their own coins. The Iceni (eye-seen-eye) were one of these tribes. 

The Celtic people had followed this way of life for centuries, but things started to change when Julius Caesar invaded Britain in the first century BCE. At that time, Rome didn’t take over completely. They let the Celtic tribes live pretty much as they always had, but they did force many of the local rulers to pay tribute to Rome. This meant they were expected to send money or gifts to Rome, and support the Romans against their enemies. These local kings were now ruling over client kingdoms. Being a client kingdom of Rome often meant they’d eventually try to make you part of the Empire officially. Later, in the middle of the first century CE, that’s exactly what happened. The Roman Emperor Claudius conquered the southern part of Britain, and made it an official Roman province in 43 CE. 

The Roman conquest meant big changes for the Celtic tribes who lived in the area or nearby. The Romans sent a governor to run the province and set up a capital city. They brought along many new luxuries from the continent as well, such as food and drinks, glassware, and jewelry. The Romans wanted to teach the Celtic people how to live like Romans, but they also needed places for their retired soldiers to live. The Roman empire had made a promise that if you joined the military, they would give you a piece of land to farm when you completed your service. Many poor citizens thought this was a great offer. Most of the land closer to Rome, in Italy, belonged to a few very wealthy nobles, who used slaves to farm it. This left very little land for the poor to live on or farm. So part of the reason Rome conquered so many other tribes and kingdoms was to give their poorer citizens, especially soldiers, someplace where they could own land. 

There were still many independent tribes in Britain, even after Claudius set up the Roman colony. The Iceni were one, and they lived in the eastern part of England. After Claudius set up the Roman province of Britain, he let the Iceni live as a client kingdom under their own king. His name was Prasutagus. Prasutagus had a wife named Boudicca and two daughters who lived with him. The Romans allowed him to keep control over his small kingdom. When Prasutagus passed away he left his home and land to his two daughters and to Rome.

But Romans acted as though he had left it to Rome alone. They treated his widow, Boudicca (Boo-DI-kuh) and his daughters very badly, even beating them. They also took away all the land, possessions, and money he had wanted his daughters to have. 

The Roman veterans had also begun treating the local British people very poorly, stealing their land and even forcing some of them into slavery. This made them angry. When they saw how Boudicca and her daughters were being treated, they became even angrier and began to rebel.

The tribes in Briton decided to join forces. They chose Boudicca to lead them. She was a powerful woman. A later Roman historian describes her as very intelligent and strong-willed. She was tall, with fierce eyes and long hair the color of a lion’s mane. She led the Britons in an attack on the capital of Roman province, Camulodunum. The Romans thought it was very strange and inappropriate for a woman to lead an army. At first, they may have thought she couldn’t do a very good job. The Roman leader didn’t send enough troops to defeat the rebels. The governor himself was with his army in another part of England, trying to win even more new territory for Rome. 

But, having Boudicca as their commander wasn’t that unusual for the Britons. Women from the Celtic tribes often did lead soldiers in battle. This allowed the Britons to win their first victory at the Roman capital easily. Next, they went on to attack and raid the towns of Verulamium and Londinium. You might know Londinium by its modern name, London.

As the Britons continued their march, the Romans finally decided to take Boudicca’s rebellion seriously. The Romans returned to the area with an even bigger army. 

Boudicca encouraged her troops before each battle, riding among them with her two daughters in a chariot. She told them she was with them not as a queen, but as one of the people who had lost her freedom and been mistreated just like them. She told them it was better to live a simple, poor life with freedom, than to give up their freedom and have all the luxuries the Roman had brought to the island. Her plan was that they would either win their freedom, or fall trying.

Unfortunately, though Boudicca led her people valiantly, they fell trying. The Britons lost the battle with Suetonius’ army. Boudicca died alongside many of her people. Their part of Britain was now Roman. Over the next 20 years, the Romans would expand their territory in Britain almost all the way to Scotland, in the north of the island.

But although her rebellion wasn’t successful in the end, Boudicca left a legacy that people have looked to for inspiration for thousands of years. Artists and poets, especially many from Britain, have found inspiration in Boudicca’s story. Poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Cowper wrote poems celebrating her story, and many artists have memorialized her in paintings and sculpture. A bronze sculpture of Boudicca stands near the Palace of Westminster in London, where the British government meets. It shows Boudicca and her daughters riding in their chariot as she rallied the soldiers. Boudicca also helped inspire women in England to fight for the right to vote in the early twentieth century. These women, called suffragists, would carry a banner with Boudicca’s name on it as they marched in the streets, demanding that they be allowed to vote.

Standing up for what you believe is right isn’t always about winning. And you don’t have to win every time in order to inspire people and make progress. Boudicca stood up not just for her family, or her tribe, but for her entire culture. She stood up for ideals like freedom and self-determination, even when it was clear that she would most likely not succeed. Standing up for what is right, even if you don’t win, is always worthwhile!

Poems:

https://www.bartleby.com/41/320.html

https://allpoetry.com/poem/8473297-Boadicea-by-Alfred-Lord-Tennyson

Sources

Cassius Dio Roman History  Bk 62 https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/cassius_dio/62*.html

Tacitus Annales Bk 14.29-37

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_conquest_of_Britain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prasutagus

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/celts

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/overview_british_prehistory_ironage_01.shtml
https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095617744
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boadicea_and_Her_Daughters

The Story of Grace Hopper for Kids

Has your curiosity ever gotten you in trouble? Maybe you took something apart or made a mess while you were trying to find out how it worked, or maybe you’ve asked a grown-up a question they didn’t know how to answer. If so, don’t feel bad about yourself! You have something in common with some of the smartest and most innovative people in history, including the subject of today’s episode, Grace Murray Hopper. 

Grace was born and raised in New York City, and she was a very curious child. Her family had a large summer home, which they shared with her many cousins. Each of the seven bedrooms in the house had an alarm clock, and every evening, Grace’s mother would set each alarm clock. This was the early twentieth century, so these weren’t the kind of alarm your parents might have on their phone, or even a digital alarm clock. These were old-fashioned clocks with gears in them and two bells on top. When the alarm rang, a small hammer would go back and forth, quickly hitting the bells and making a loud, high-pitched ring. This kind of ringing was impossible to sleep through! If you imagine what an old-fashioned fire alarm might sound like, it would be similar to that. 

Grace was fascinated by the alarm clocks, and wanted to know how they worked. So she took one apart! But looking at the pile of gears, springs, and hands, in front of her, she still wasn’t sure. 

So she took apart another. 

Then another. 

Eventually, Grace took apart all seven alarm clocks, trying to figure out how all the tiny, complicated pieces worked together. Her mother wasn’t exactly happy about all the alarm clocks in the house being broken, but she was understanding, and she let Grace keep one clock to study.

Grace’s father also supported Grace’s curiosity. He encouraged her and her sister to get as much education as they could so they could support themselves. This was not common for girls in the early 1900s. Grace especially loved math and geometry. She used geometry to draw pictures. This is a fun way to use math – try to see what you can draw some time just using the basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. If you look around, you’ll notice these shapes, along with angles, lines, curves, and other things that can be described with numbers, in many things you see every day.

Grace worked hard in school, and was almost able to start college when she was sixteen! Why almost? Her test scores in math were very high, but her scores in Latin were too low. But, just as she had done with the alarm clocks, Grace didn’t quit trying after one failure. She tried again, and was able to start college the next year at seventeen. She graduated with degrees in math and physics in 1928. She went on to get a PhD in math at Yale in 1934. Eventually, she became a math professor at Vassar College.

When World War II started, Grace tried to join the Navy, which had just started accepting women. Her grandfather had been in the Navy, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the Navy wouldn’t take Grace! Their reasons for rejecting her were not what you might think: they said she was valuable to the war effort as a math professor; she was too thin for her height; and she was too old at 34. This shows us another important lesson: people often don’t say no to you because they don’t like you. They might say no because of rules they have to follow, or because you’re too important! Not a bad reason to be rejected, right?

But knowing Grace, you can probably guess that this rejection didn’t hold her back. She tried again. Grace took a leave of absence from her job as a professor and volunteered for the Naval Reserves. She had to get special permission due to her weight being too low, but she got to serve in the Navy and support the war effort, just like she wanted. Not only that, she was at the top of her class in the training program! The Navy sent her to Harvard University to work on the first computer made in the United States, the Mark I.

Grace worked on programming the Mark I to help the navy solve problems on their ships. Programming a computer means giving it instructions so it will do what you want it to do. You might be wondering why Grace was given a job programming computers. But, have you ever thought about why a computer is called a computer? Well, it’s because their original purpose was to compute things, to do complex math that humans can’t do quickly. The navy used the Mark I to help them track the location of enemy ships and submarines. It could perform math quickly, and never made mistakes like human mathematicians sometimes do. But, the Mark I did need humans to tell it exactly what math to do, and that was Grace’s job. 

Early computers were programmed using numbers and symbols. You had to understand a lot of mathematics to program a computer, which is why many early programmers like Grace, had degrees in math. Programming was complicated and it was easy to make mistakes, even for an expert. So Grace would save pieces of programs that did specific things so she could use them again in new programs. She also developed a system that allowed the computer to find these pieces of code without her having to input all of it again.

After the war, in 1949, Grace went to work at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Here, she worked on Univac, the first computer in the United States to be sold to businesses for general purposes. This got her thinking about what people were trying to do with computers, and she realized not everyone could get their job done using only the language of math, numbers and symbols. Grace thought there should be computer programming languages that were based on the English language. This would make it easier for more people to learn to program and use computers to help them do their jobs. But, in order to create this kind of programming language, she also needed to invent the technology to translate English-based commands into the mathematical language that computers understood.

And that’s exactly what Grace did! She called her translator a compiler. If you want to imagine what a compiler does, think of all the word problems you’ve seen in your math books. You might have a problem like:

“Dan has seven apples. He gives three of them to Isaac. How many apples does Dan have left?”

The English words in this sentence give us clues about what kind of math problem we need to do. We know that the special words seven and three are numbers. We know if someone gives something away, they will have fewer of that thing. This gives us a clue that we need to subtract to find the answer. Once we think it through a bit, we can figure out that we need to write a math problem, “seven minus three equals” and then compute the answer. A compiler does something similar: it has a set of rules it uses to take the commands and translate them into numbers. The rules are more complicated than the subtraction word problem we just talked about, but the idea is similar.   

At first, the men Grace worked with thought this idea was crazy. But she kept working on her ideas for years, and eventually, others who worked with computers accepted them. Grace also reached her goal of inventing the first programming language based on English words, rather than numbers and symbols. This new language became known as COBOL. It was used for decades, and is even still used today. More importantly, COBOL inspired many other computer scientists to invent new programming languages based on human language to solve different types of problems. Today there are dozens of languages, and millions of people who learn and use them everyday. 

Later Grace returned to working for the Navy. After a long career, she reached the rank of rear admiral. At the time, she was one of the highest ranking women in the Navy. She retired in 1986 at the age of 80, but even after retiring, she continued to work. She was always eager to help young people learn about computers and programming, and aside from inventing the compiler, she said this was one of her greatest accomplishments.

Grace used to have a clock on her office wall. It was the kind of clock with hands that tick off the hours, seconds and minutes, just like the alarm clocks she took apart as a child. But this clock was unique: its hands went around in the opposite direction from other clocks. Instead of going clockwise, her clock went counter-clockwise! Even though the clock went backwards, it still ticked off the hours and minutes reliably, and gave the right time. 

Grace said this clock was a reminder that you don’t have to do things the same way everyone else is doing them. If you think you have a different or better way to do something, you should try it, even if others don’t understand at first. And as she showed so many times in her life, don’t just try once. Try over and over again until you get it! If you have a good idea and work hard to make it a reality, other people will eventually notice. 

Grace never gave up when she had a goal or a  great idea, even when others around her didn’t support her. She kept working on her ideas, and showing her work to others, until they had to listen, and, often, had to admit she’d been right all along! She knew that good ideas didn’t always fit the way people had done things in the past. They might even seem a little crazy at first. But without crazy new ideas we wouldn’t make any progress.

Sources

https://stories.vassar.edu/2017/assets/images/170706-legacy-of-grace-hopper-hopperpdf.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

The History of D-Day: Operation Overlord for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are cold and sitting in the back of the boat. The sky is cloudy and many airplanes are flying overhead. The water from the chilly ocean is splashing into your boat and as you look ahead you see a beach which you and your team of soldiers must invade. Bombs explode in the water around you. Your boat tries to navigate through spikes and landmines that are guarding the water leading up to the beach. A boat nearby you is sinking from an explosion. “Out of the boat! Out of the boat!” someone shouts. The ramp to the front of the boat goes down and you rush out with the other soldiers. You are very scared, but you know in order to win the war this beach must be taken back! It is D-Day and you are one of the Allied soldiers preparing to take Normandy Beach in France.

For many years Hitler and the German Army controlled France and many other countries in Europe. The main goal of the Allies was to kick Hitler and his army out of France and take the fight to Germany. The Allies were made up of many countries, but the main ones were the United States, England, France, Russia, and Canada. D-Day was one of the most important missions of the war because it would take place on the beaches of France where the Allies would start taking back Europe from Hitler. 

The United States General Eisenhower was made command of the D-Day operation in January 1944. The Allies knew they wanted to attack, but weren’t sure where. And part of the plan was to trick Hitler into believing the attack would be from somewhere else, so he wouldn’t be able to concentrate all of his forces in one place. The Allies used many tricks to go about this such as spies, secret agents, fake tanks, and fake radio messages. They even put one of their best generals, George Patton, in different area to confused Hitler. Over 3,200 reconnaissance missions were used to prepare for D-Day. Reconnaissance means to to spy on the enemy and do research to decide how to act next. The original name of the mission was Operation Overlord, and only later referred to as D-Day.

The plan was to attack the Germans on Normandy Beach. 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes were used during the attack. After the ships brought in the soldiers, the plan was to put them all on amphibious vehicles, move them to the beach, then the soldiers would attack the Germans guarding the beach.

But the morning before they started the attack the Allie’s planes dropped bombs on the Germans guarding the beach. French people living in a town nearby were awoken to the sound of bombs. A French villager lived near a house overlooking the beaches. He said: “I saw light coming from two bombs that exploded at the ridge of the cliff.” The Allies were doing everything they could to make sure the soldiers coming in on the beach would be safe.

The night before the invasion 24,000 soldiers also parachuted out of planes and landed behind the German army to help the troops who would be landing on the beach. These soldiers were called “paratroopers.”

One of the paratroopers was named Bob Nobles. He and his 16-man team flew in a plane across the English Channel. Just after midnight the light inside their plane told them it was time to jump out. They all lined up and one after another jumped out of the back of the plane. He said “By the time my parachute opened, I was on the ground!” He landed in a farmer’s field all by himself and took off his parachute. Then he hurried off on foot until he came across another paratrooper. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” the other paratrooper shouted. “I’m from Indiana! But I forgot the password!” They were supposed to have a password to know who was on their side and who was the enemy. Bob laughed as they looked for the rest of the teammates. But most of the other paratroopers had missed the drop zone, the place they were supposed to land.

These paratrooper missions proved to be very dangerous and a challenge in some cases where the soldiers landed in the wrong place or were captured or shot as soon as they landed. But in other cases the soldiers were able to regroup and take bridges and help the soldiers who would be landing on the beach the next day. 

The original plan was to attack on June 5th, but the weather was very bad, so it was put off until June 6th. In a message to troops before they left, General Eisenhower told them, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

On June 6th 1944 starting at 6:30 a.m. the amphibious vehicles took the Allied troops from the ships to the beach. Amphibious means something that works in water and on land. These vehicles were designed to float like a boat and drive like a car!

Over 100,000 Allied soldiers attacked the beach at the same time! They were from many different countries like the United States, England, and Canada. The invasion was the largest amphibious landing and assault in history!

For many months the German Army had prepared for an attack on the beach. They had built many defenses armed with machine guns, barbed wire, land mines, so attacking the beach was extremely dangerous. 

One of the soldiers, Colonel Moulton, was on the amphibious landing craft with his soldiers. He told them to fire smoke bombs into the sky so they would be hidden from the enemy machine guns. It helped some, but their landing craft was still smashed up and some of the soldiers died when they hit the beach. Telling his story many years later, he said that the “Germans built concrete strong points in the villages and we landed right in front of one,” which caused much harm to his fellow soldiers.

Another soldier, Harry Timmins, said that when their landing craft came on the beach “the noise was more than you could possibly imagine. There were explosions all around us in the sea and the shells and mortars were kicking up sand all over the beach. A couple of buildings were on fire and the guns on our boat also joined in the barrage and deafened us.”

Many soldiers lost their lives as they came out of the landing vehicles. In some places the water was too high, so sadly they sank with all their heavy gear on. 

Another soldier, Robert Watson remembered that nothing went quite as planned. Everything took longer than expected and his landing craft was taking on a lot of water. “Landing craft were exploding all around me,” he remembered and got very sick in his boat. He remembered someone yelling “Get to the beach!” Then their craft hit a floating mine and they had to climb onto another craft to get the rest of the way to the beach. After he finally got to the beach he said, “I was scared my ammunition wouldn’t work” because it was wet. But he was able to fire shots without any problem and started firing at the enemy. The company of soldiers he started with had 62 soldiers. Only 36 of them were left after the attack. Many of his friends never made it to the beach. 

The beaches were given different codenames. Omaha Beach and Juno Beach had the most casualties. A casualty is when someone is hurt or dies in battle. By the end of the morning over 4,000 soldiers had died during the intense battle! 

By the time the battle was done the Allies had taken the beach and started moving into France. It was one of the most dangerous battles of World War II, but also one of the most important as well. Now that the Allies were in France they had shown the world and Hitler that they were very strong and would be able to win the war. The war continued on for many more days, but because of the sacrifices made on D-Day there was hope for the people of France and people all around the world that the war would come to an end.

Do you know anyone who has served in the military? Take some time to think about their bravery in deciding to serve and what courage it must take to decide to put your life on the line for your country. Think about those who gave their life on D-Day and how many of the freedoms you have exist, because someone else has given up their own time and sometimes even their life. There is a quote that says “Freedom isn’t free.” Freedom is often something that has to be fought for. Because of this, we shouldn’t take our own freedom for granted. Think about what you might do to keep freedom strong wherever you live. This might mean learning more about government and your local leaders. This might mean learning about different laws and voting when you are the right age. It might also mean serving in the military as well. Whatever you do to help, remember that freedom is a wonderful thing that not everyone has; and something we should never take for granted.