Category Archives: Religion

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

For most people, death is an uncomfortable topic, particularly one’s own mortality. We speak of people “passing,,” not dying. We choose healthy lifestyle, hoping to postpone the inevitable.

Others challenge the actuarial tables by smoking, drinking excessively, eating as much and whatever whenever, driving without seat belts, or something else society warns us not to do.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Only the good die young?

Regardless of our personal life style, regardless of others’ life styles, death comes. to the young, the old, those between, those healthy, and those ill. To all.

Many dream of a quiet death surrounded by loved ones who had the time to get to their bedside in a comfortable setting and with had the time to impart sage advice. Forgiveness.

For others, death  comes as a horrifically slow and painful chronic illness. 

Jack Kevorkian hoped to provide solace to the latter. 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Early life

Kevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on May 26, 1928.In 1952, he graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. His parents had survived the Armenian holocaust in Turkey.

As a young doctor, some of his views were medically and socially non-traditional. For example, he proposed that society give death row prisoners  the choice to undergo capital punishment by medical experimentation while under anesthesia. 

The medical community denied any such procedure.

Kevorkian proposed, based on successful research, the transfusion of blood from dead patients to patients in need of blood. He proposed the idea to the military.

The military denied such a procedure.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Euthanasia

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

It is no surprise, then, that euthanasia became on of Kevorkian’s interests and on June 4, 1990 he was present at the death of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

Her death occurred in Kevorkian’s 1968 Volkswagen van in Groveland Oaks Park near Holly, Michigan. 

He used a device he developed called that “Thanatron” from the Greek works for death and machine. It worked by the patient pushing a button to deliver the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. It had three canisters mounted on a metal frame. Each bottle had a syringe that connected to a single IV line in the person’s arm. One contained saline, another contained a sleep-inducing barbiturate called sodium thiopental and the third a lethal mixture of potassium chloride, which immediately stopped the heart, and pancuronium bromide, a paralytic medication to prevent spasms during the dying process.

On June 5 he gave an interview to the NY Times about Adkins. In it he prophetically said that, “”They’ll all be after me for this. My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience. I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Legal issues begin

June 8, 1990: an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge enjoined Kevorkian from aiding in any suicides.

December 12, 1990: District Court Judge Gerald McNally dismissed the murder charge against Kevorkian in death of Adkins.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1991

February 5, 1991: a Michigan court barred Kevorkian from assisting in suicides.

October 23, 1991:  Kevokian attended the deaths of Marjorie Wantz, a 58-year-old Sodus, Michigan, woman with pelvic pain, and Sherry Miller, a 43-year-old Roseville, Michigan, woman with multiple sclerosis. The deaths occur at a rented state park cabin near Lake Orion, Michigan. Wantz died from the suicide machine’s lethal drugs, Miller from carbon monoxide poisoning inhaled through a face mask.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Kevorkian would stop using the Thantran and began to use what he called the Mercitron (“mercy machine”).  The Mercitron used a mask through which a person inhaled carbon dioxide. 

November 20, 1991: the Michigan state Board of Medicine summarily revoked Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1992

May 15, 1992: Susan Williams, a 52-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Clawson, Michigan.

July 21, 1992: Oakland County Circuit Court Judge David Breck dismissed charges against Kevorkian in the deaths of Miller and Wantz.

September 26, 1992: Lois Hawes, 52, a Warren, Michigan, woman with lung and brain cancer, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning at the home of Kevorkian’s assistant Neal Nicol in Waterford Township, Michigan.

November 23, 1992: Catherine Andreyev of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, died in Kevorkian’s assistant Neil Nicol’s home. She was 45 and had cancer. Hers is the first of 10 deaths Kevorkian attended over the next three months; all die from inhaling carbon monoxide.

December 3, 1992: The Michigan Legislature passed a ban on assisted suicide to take effect on March 30, 1993.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1993

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian
May 31, 1993 edition of Time magazine

February 15, 1993: Hugh Gale, a 70-year-old man with emphysema and congestive heart disease, died in his Roseville home. Prosecutors investigated after Right-to-Life advocates said that they found papers that showed Kevorkian altered his account of Gale’s death, deleting a reference to a request by Gale to halt the procedure.

The investigator’s follow up investigation read: “It is my decision that no charges will be filed against Dr. Jack Kevorkian or any other person in connection with the death of Hugh Gale. Mr. Gale’s death can only be regarded as a suicide. Those present at the time of his death did nothing more than provide the means for him to accomplish a result that he desired. The great weight of evidence is that he never faltered in that desire up to the point that he lost consciousness.”

February 25, 1993: Michigan Governor John Engler signs the legislation banning assisted suicide. It makes aiding in a suicide a four-year felony but allows law to expire after a blue-ribbon commission studies permanent legislation.

April 27, 1993: a California law judge suspended Kevokian’s medical license after a request from that state’s medical board.

August 4, 1993: Thomas Hyde, a 30-year-old Novi, Michigan, man with ALS, is found dead in Kevorkian’s van on Belle Isle, a Detroit park.

September 9, 1993: hours after a judge ordered him to stand trial in Thomas Hyde’s death, Kevorkian is present at the death of cancer patient Donald O’Keefe, 73, in Redford Township, Michigan.

November 5 – 8, 1993: Kevorkian fasts in Detroit jail after refusing to post $20,000 bond in case involving Hyde’s death.

November 29, 1993: Kevorkian begins fast in Oakland County jail for refusing to post $50,000 bond after being charged in the October death of Merian Frederick, 72. 

December 17, 1993: he ended fast and left jail after Oakland County Circuit Court Judge reduced bond to $100 in exchange for his vow not to assist in any more suicides until state courts resolved the legality of his practice.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1994

January 27, 1994:  a Circuit Court Judge dismissed charges against Kevorkian in two deaths, becoming the fifth lower court judge in Michigan to rule that assisted suicide was a constitutional right.

May 2, 1994: a Detroit jury acquitted Kevorkian of charges he violated the state’s assisted suicide ban in the death of Thomas Hyde.

May 10, 1994: The Michigan Court of Appeals strikes down the state’s ban on assisted suicide on the grounds it was enacted unlawfully.

November 8, 1994: Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters passed a tightly restricted Death with Dignity Act. Legal appeals kept the law from taking effect until 1997.

November 26, 1994: hours after Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide expired, 72-year-old Margaret Garrish died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Royal Oak. She had arthritis and osteoporosis. Kevorkian was not present when police arrived. 

December 13, 1994: the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Michigan’s 1993-94 ban on assisted suicide and also rules assisted suicide is illegal in Michigan under common law. The ruling reinstated cases against Kevorkian in four deaths

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1995

June 26, 1995: Kevorkian opened a “suicide clinic” in an office in Springfield Township, Michigan. Erika Garcellano, a 60-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, woman with ALS, is the first client. A few days later, the building’s owner kicks out Kevorkian.

September 14, 1995: Kevorkian arrived at the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, Michigan in homemade stocks with ball and chain. He is ordered to stand trial for assisting in the 1991 suicides of Sherry Miller and Marjorie Wantz.

October 30, 1995: a group of doctors and other medical experts in Michigan announced its support of Kevorkian , saying they will draw up a set of guiding principles for the “merciful, dignified, medically-assisted termination of life.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1996

February 1, 1996: the New England Journal of Medicine published massive studies of physicians’ attitudes towards doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon and Michigan. The studies demonstrated that a large number of physicians surveyed support, in some conditions, doctor-assisted suicide. [2000 NEJM article]

March 6, 1996, : the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have a constitutional right to aid in dying from doctors, health care workers and family members. It is the first time a federal appeals court endorses assisted suicide.

March 8, 1996,  a jury acquitted Kevorkian in two deaths. 

March 20, 1996: Rep Dave Camp (R-MI), introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to prohibit tax-payer funding of assisted suicide.

April 1, 1996,  trial began in Kevorkian’s home town of Pontiac in the deaths of Miller and Wantz. For the start of his third criminal trial, he wears colonial costume–tights, a white powdered wig, and big buckle shoes–a protest against the fact that he is being tried under centuries-old common law. He would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted in the Wantz/Miller deaths.

May 14, 1996: jury acquitted Kevorkian.

November 4, 1996: Kevorkian’s lawyer announced a previously unreported assisted suicide of a 54-year-old woman. This brought the total number of his assisted suicides, since 1990, to 46.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1997

June 12, 1997, in Kevorkian’s fourth trial, a judge declared a mistrial. The prosecution later dropped the case.

June 26, 1997: in Washington v. Glucksberg. The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that state governments have the right to outlaw doctor-assisted suicide. The Court had been asked to decide whether state laws banning the practice in New York and Washington were unconstitutional. (Oyez article)

October 27,  1997: the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which voters had approved by referendum on November 8, 1994, and which allowed voluntary end of life, took effect on this day. The law allowed individuals to voluntarily end their own lives by ingesting a life-ending drug that a licensed physician prescribed.

The law has survived two challenges. Oregon voters rejected a repeal measure by a margin of 60 percent in 1997. And in 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the law, in Gonzales v. Oregon. (Oregon Health Authority article)

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1998

March 14, 1998: Kevorkian’s 100th assisted suicide, a 66-year-old Detroit man.

September 1, 1998: Michigan’s second law outlawing physician-assisted suicide goes into effect.

September 17, 1998: Kevorkian videotapesd the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, 52, who was in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He sent the tape to CBS.

November 3, 1998: Michigan voters rejected a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

November 22, 1998: CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired Kevorkian’s videotape of Thomas Youk.  The broadcast triggered an intense debate within medical, legal and media circles. [60 Minutes Overtime article]

November 25, 1998:  Michigan charged Kevorkian with first-degree murder, violating the assisted suicide law and delivering a controlled substance without a license in the death of Thomas Youk. Prosecutors later drop the suicide charge. Kevorkian insists on defending himself during the trial and threatens to starve himself if he is sent to jail.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1999

March 26, 1999: Kevorkian convicted of second-degree murder for giving a lethal injection to an ailing man whose death was shown on “60 Minutes.”

April 13, 1999: Michigan judge Jessica Cooper of Oakland County Circuit Court sentenced Kevorkian to 10 – 25 years in prison for conviction of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in the death of Thomas Youk. [CNN article]

Cooper denied bail pending appeal and said to Kevorkian that, “This trial was not about the political or moral correctness of euthanasia…It was about you, sir. It was about lawlessness.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

21st Century

September 29, 2005: in an MSNBC interview, by Rita Cosby Kevorkian said that if he were granted parole, he would not resume directly helping people die and would restrict himself to campaigning to have the law changed.

When asked if he had any regrets, he responded: “Well, I do a little.  It was disappointing because what I did turned out to be in vain, even though I know it could possibly end that way.  And my only regret was not having done it through the legal system, through legislation, possibly.”

December 22, 2005: Kevorkian was again denied parole by a board.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Paroled

June 1, 2007: paroled for good behavior. He had spent eight years and two and a half months in prison. On June 4, the NY Times published an interview with him following his release.

In it he said that, ““I said I won’t do it again,” he said, “and it’s not even worth doing again by me because it’d be counterproductive to what I’m fighting for. It’s up to others. If you people don’t want that right, then don’t do it. Then let your government trample all over you. If you don’t want to do it, it’s all right by me, but you don’t get me talking about it and going back to that thing called prison.”

Doctor Jacob Jack KevorkianApril 14 , 2010: the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack premiered at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Kevorkian walked the red carpet alongside Al Pacino, who portrayed him in the film. Pacino received Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his portrayal, and personally thanked Kevorkian, who was in the audience, upon receiving both of these awards. Kevorkian stated that both the film and Pacino’s performance “brings tears to my eyes – and I lived through it.”

New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley wrote, “When it comes to assisted suicide, it is possible to love the sin and hate the sinner.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Death

June 3, 2011: Kevorkian died after being hospitalized with kidney problems and pneumonia eight days earlier. (NYT obit)

Many of the dates from this chronology come from  PBS dot org Frontline 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian
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Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Early life

According to the Matilda Josyln Gage Foundation siteMatilda Joslyn Gage was born on March 24, 1826, in Cicero, New York. An only child, she was raised in a household dedicated to antislavery. Her father, Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn, was a nationally known abolitionist, and the Joslyn home was a station on the Underground Railway.

If we were to stop there, we would limit her life to that of an abolitionist, a worthy cause, but she was so much more. She fought for the rights of anyone oppressed as well as the separation of church and state.

Her adult life began 19th century-conventionally: she married Henry Gage when she was 18 and eventually gave birth to five children–four of whom lived. Gage was an unusual husband in that he gave his wife a freedom few wives of that time could ever hope for. 

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Abolitionist

That personal freedom was not only in great contrast to women, but of course to enslaved men and women.

On October 4, 1850 Gage [24 years old] signed petition stating that she would face a 6-month prison term and a $2,000 fine rather than obey the Fugitive Slave Law.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Women’s Rights

She would have attended the first Women’s Wights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY (July 19, 1848) but she was pregnant and about to give birth to her son Thomas.

Two years later in September 1852  she gave her first public address at the third national women’s rights convention in Syracuse stating: While so much is said of the inferior intellect of woman, it is by a strange absurdity conceded that very many eminent men owe their station in life to their mothers.

She also said that, “Custom has been, and is now, the mistress who plants her foot on the too willing neck of prostrate womanhood.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

American Civil War

Gage was very capable of juggling more than one cause at at time. In 1862 she gave a Flag Presentation Speech to the 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry known as the “Onondagas” [named from their home area,  Onondaga County, New York] as they went off to the Civil War. Opposing President Lincoln, who said that the war was being fought to preserve the union, Gage told soldiers they were fighting for an end to slavery and freedom for all citizens.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Suffragist

In 1869 with Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  Gage founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. She helped found New York State Woman Suffrage Association; served as its president for nine years.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Feminist

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1870 Gage researched and published “Woman as Inventor.” In it, Gage credited the invention of the cotton gin Catherine Littlefield Greene. Gage claimed that Greene suggested to Whitney the use of a brush-like component instrumental in separating out the seeds and cotton. [Gage provided no source for this claim and to date there has been no independent verification of Greene’s role in the invention of the gin. However, many believe that Eli Whitney received the patent for the gin and the sole credit in history textbooks for its invention only because social norms inhibited women from registering for patents.]

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Native Americans

In the 1870s: Gage wrote a series of articles speaking out against United States’ unjust treatment of American Indians and describing superior position of native women. “The division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal,” Gage wrote of the Iroquois. In matters of government, “…its women exercised controlling power in peace and war … no sale of lands was valid without consent” of the women, while “the family relation among the Iroquois demonstrated woman’s superiority in power … in the home, the wife was absolute … if the Iroquois husband and wife separated, the wife took with her all the property she had brought … the children also accompanied the mother, whose right to them was recognized as supreme.” “Never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher,” Gage concluded.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

More…

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

On May 10, 1876 she chaired at the Ninth Annual Convention of the National and New York State Woman Suffrage Associations. In her opening address she said that during the past 100 hundred years man had had his share of the advantages of the Declaration of Independence, but woman at the outset of the second century of the Republic stood just where she had in 1776.

History of Woman Suffrage was produced by Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida Husted Harper. History was published in six volumes from 1881 to 1922.

Its more than 5700 pages are the major source for primary documentation about the women’s suffrage movement from its beginnings through the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which enfranchised women in the U.S. in 1920. Written from the viewpoint of the wing of the movement led by Stanton and Anthony, its coverage of rival groups and individuals is limited.

The first three volumes, which cover the history of the movement from its beginnings to 1885, were written and edited by Stanton, Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Volume 1 (1848–1861) appeared in 1881, Volume 2 (1861–1876) in 1882 and Volume 3 (1876–1885) in 1886. Some early chapters first appeared in Gage’s newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Female Liability

From  Starter Home: Discovering the Past in Central New York By Peter Svenson: In 1877, having singlehandedly developed a strategy that mimicked a convicted male felon’s right to petition Congress to regain his right to vote, Gage petitioned Congress in person to grant her “relief from her political liabilities,” i.e., her womanhood. A bill to enfranchise her was introduced on the House floor, but defeated. …Gage was considered more radical that either [Susan B] Anthony or [Elizabeth C] Stanton.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Freethinker

In 1878 Gage was a speaker at the Freethought convention in Watkin’s Glen, NY; an arrest under the Comstock Laws occurs there for the sale of a birth control manual.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Continued activism

From 1878 – 1881 Gage published The National Citizen and Ballot Box, official paper of the NWSA.

In 1880 Gage wrote “Who Planned the Tennessee Campaign of 1862?” Gage argued that a woman, Anna Ella Carroll, planned that campaign in detail. [In the fall of 1861, Carroll had traveled to St. Louis to work with secret agent, Judge Lemuel Dale Evans, who had been appointed by Secretary of State William H. Seward. Carroll gathered information and based on it and in late November 1861 wrote a memorandum that she sent to Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott and Attorney General Edward Bates, advocating that the combined army-navy forces change their invasion route from the Mississippi to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.]

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

The future Wizard of Oz

November 9, 1882 Gage’s daughter, Maud, married L. Frank Baum in the parlor of the Gage home. Under the influence of his wife and mother-in-law, Baum became an enthusiastic convert to feminism. He was, ”a secure man who did not worry about asserting his masculine authority,” and he was not bothered that Maud had the upper hand in the marriage; in fact he seemed to welcome her take-charge attitude. His feminist beliefs would have a profound effect on his fiction. Nearly all of his child heroes were girls, girls who rely on their own resources and not on the aid, or validation, of men. He thought men who did not support feminist aspirations ”selfish, opinionated, conceited or unjust — and perhaps all four combined,” as he wrote in a newspaper editorial. ”The tender husband, the considerate father, the loving brother, will be found invariably championing the cause of women.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

International Council of Women

March 1886 an organizer of the International Council of Women, chaired one session. Convention attended by Woman Christian Temperance Union President Frances Willard, whom Gage called “the most dangerous woman in America,” because of her work with the religious right, trying to destroy the wall of separation between church and state by placing the Christian God as the head of the government.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Statue of Liberty protest

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

October 28, 1886 she participated in the New York City Woman Suffrage Association’s protest at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. Suffragists called it the greatest hypocrisy of the 19th century that liberty is represented as a woman in a land where not a single woman has liberty.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman’s National Liberal Union

In 1890 Gage left NWSA after its merger with the American Woman Suffrage Association and established the Woman’s National Liberal Union, dedicated to maintaining the separation of church and state.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman, Church, and State

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1893 Gage published her magnum opus, Woman, Church, and State.

Gage also spoke of organized religion: “The greatest evils to women in all ages have come through the bondage of the Church. Women must think for themselves and realize that the story of the creation with the pair in the garden and the speaking serpent standing on his tail was a myth.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Woman’s Suffrage League

December 8, 1893 at a meeting of the Woman’s Suffrage League, Gage reacted to a statement made by the Rev Dr Parkhurst about women turned out to get a night’s lodging—that they might “starve or freeze on the streets,” with his consent, if it only brought them to a proper state of repentance. Gage stated, “For every 2,000 women who are turned homeless and friendless into the cold wintry streets, with every man’s hand against them , there are 20,000 men as guilty who are stting in comfortable homes, surrounded with luxury, who pose as honored and respected members of society.”

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

The Woman’s Bible

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In 1895 Gage contributed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible, writing interpretations of three Biblical passages pertinent to women. TWB is a major criticism of standard biblical interpretation from a radical feminist point of view.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Gage dies

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

March 18, 1898 Gage died in Chicago at the home of her daughter, Maud Gage Baum. Gage was 72. Written on her gravestone:

THERE IS A WORD SWEETER
THAN MOTHER
HOME OR HEAVEN
THAT WORD IS LIBERTY
Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Legacy

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Wizard of Oz

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

May 17, 1900 L Frank Baum published Wizard of Oz. A young girl named Dorothy is the hero at a time when such a thing was unheard of.

“The Matilda effect”

Feminist Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

In May 1993 science historian Margaret W. Rossiter described and names “The Matilda effect.

The abstract of the article stated: Recent work has brought to light so many cases, historical and contemporary, of women scientists who have been ignored, denied credit or otherwise dropped from sight that a sex-linked phenomenon seems to exist, as has been documented to be the case in other fields, such as medicine, art history and literary criticism. Since this systematic bias in scientific information and recognition practices fits the second half of Matthew 13:12 in the Bible, which refers to the under-recognition accorded to those who have little to start with, it is suggested that sociologists of science and knowledge can add to the ‘Matthew Effect’, made famous by Robert K. Merton in 1968, the ‘Matilda Effect’, named for the American suffragist and feminist critic Matilda J. Gage of New York, who in the late nineteenth century both experienced and articulated this phenomenon. Calling attention to her and this age-old tendency may prod future scholars to include other such ‘Matildas’ and thus to write a better, because more comprehensive, history and sociology of science.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

In 2000 The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation began “when Sally Roesch Wagner, the leading authority on Gage, brought together a nationwide network of diverse people with a common goal: to bring Gage’s vitally important suffragist back to her rightful place in history.”

The foundation’s mission is: dedicated to educating current and future generations about Gage’s work and its power to drive contemporary social change.

Activist Matilda Josyln Gage
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Pope John XXIII Vatican II

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

October 11, 1962

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli

Pope John XXIII Vatican II Ecumenical Council

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

The Times They Are a-Changin

When any long-established institution announces that it will convene to discuss its present and future, it is news. If there has not been such a meeting for nearly a century, the news is bigger. And if the long-established institution is nearly 2000 years old and has had only one of these convocations before, the news is huge.

Such is what happened on January 25, 1959 when Pope John XXIII announced that there would be a Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum, or what is commonly known as Vatican II.

The Church’s College of Cardinals had only elected John three months earlier on October 28, 1958 and deliberately elected an older person (76) more as a “caretaker” leader than one who would set the stage for change.

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

John

When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli selected the name John for himself, a name, while common to previous popes, had not been selected for over 500 years, few realized the signal he sent. And when the “caretaker” of a 2000-year-old household announces that he will allow the discussion of major renovations, many within the Church’s leadership worried.

Keep in mind that Americans elected John F Kennedy president just shortly after and these two Johns, while very different in ages, both presented a vision of innovation. JFK had his “New Frontier” and John Vatican II.

The Pope opened the Council on October 11, 1962 with the following words, “What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation ...” (NYT article)

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

Catholic Boomers

When we think of the United States in the 1960s, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, black nationalism, drug use, hippies, assassinations, feminism, LGBTQ awareness, and other cultural changes dominate that historic landscape.

For Catholic Americans, those changes included what Vatican II brought about. In 1965, there were 46 million Catholics in the United States–23% of the total population and 71% of them attended Mass every week. When a part of any nation’s population is told that there will be changes in what they grew up thinking was unchangeable, the impact is great.

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

Ecumenical Council

In other words, for young Catholics, for those Catholic baby boomers, the notion that “the times they are ‘a changin'” was not unusual but normal, expected and acceptable.

  • Sing during the Mass? Why not.
  • Accept the Eucharist in one’s hand (after being told NEVER to touch it)?  Fine.
  • Receive wine as well during Communion? Better.
  • The priest will face the congregation at a much simpler alter?  Nice.
  • The Mass will be in English, no more Latin?  Great.
  • Face the priest during confession? Scary.
  • Extreme Unction is now called the Sacrament of the Sick.
  • Nuns not wear such extreme habits? They have hair?

The changes and discussion that the Council created and Church members continued after its close on December 8, 1965 continue to echo. Neither John XXIII nor JFK lived to see the effects of their visions. Pope John died on June 3, 1963 and President John 173 days later.

Pope John XXIII Vatican II

Legacy

Writer Michael Novak wrote what he sees of the genie that Vatican II let out of the bottle, much to the chagrin of many Church leaders since: … sometimes soared far beyond the actual, hard-won documents and decisions of Vatican II. … It was as though the world (or at least the history of the Church) were now to be divided into only two periods, pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II. Everything ‘pre’ was then pretty much dismissed, so far as its authority mattered. For the most extreme, to be a Catholic now meant to believe more or less anything one wished to believe, or at least in the sense in which one personally interpreted it. One could be a Catholic ‘in spirit’. One could take Catholic to mean the ‘culture’ in which one was born, rather than to mean a creed making objective and rigorous demands. One could imagine Rome as a distant and irrelevant anachronism, embarrassment, even adversary. Rome as ‘them.’ “

Pope John XXIII Vatican II
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