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Friday, May 30, 2014

Rasputin Biography - Downfall

Downfall

 

Contempt for Rasputin grew among political rivals of Czar Nicholas. On December 29, 1916, a group of conspirators, including the czar's first cousin, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Prince Felix Yusupov, invited Rasputin to Yusoupov's palace, and fed him wine and cakes laced with cyanide. But the poison seemed to have no effect. Baffled but not deterred, the conspirators repeatedly beat and finally shot Rasputin several times. He was wrapped in a carpet and thrown into the Neva River, only to be discovered three days later. An autopsy revealed that there was water in Rasputin's lungs at the time of his death, and it was concluded that he died by drowning.


Russia and the imperial family had gotten rid of Rasputin, but not his influence. Shortly before his death, Rasputin wrote to Nicholas that if he were killed by government officials, the entire imperial family would be killed by the Russian people. His prophecy came true 15 months later, when the czar, his wife and all of their children were killed by assassins amidst the Russian Revolution.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rasputin Biography - Friend of the Imperial Family



Friend of the Imperial Family

In 1906, Rasputin, known by many as the "mad monk," arrived in St. Petersburg with a reputation as a mystic and faith healer. Two years later, he was introduced to Russian Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who were seeking help for their sickly son, Alexis. Rasputin quickly gained their confidence by seemingly "curing" the boy of hemophilia. This action won him the passionate support of Alexandra.

Rasputin Biography - Friend of the Imperial Family

Between 1906 and 1914, various politicians and journalists used Rasputin’s association with the imperial family to undermine the dynasty’s credibility and push for reform. Rasputin helped their efforts by claiming to be the Tzarina’s advisor. Accounts of his lascivious behavior emerged in the press and contempt grew among state officials. In truth, his influence at this time was limited to the health of Alexis.
As Russia entered World War I, Rasputin predicted that calamity would befall the country.


Rasputin Biography - Friend of the Imperial Family

 Nicholas II took command of the Russian Army in 1915, and Alexandra took responsibility for domestic policy. Always Rasputin's defender, she dismissed ministers who were said to be suspicious of the "mad monk." Government officials tried to warn her of Rasputin's undue influence, but she continued to defend him, giving the impression that Rasputin was her closest advisor.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Rasputin Biography - Early Life

Grigori Rasputin was born into a peasant family in Siberia, Russia, around 1869. After failing to become a monk, Rasputin became a wanderer and eventually entered the court of Czar Nicholas II because of his alleged healing powers. Known for his prophetic powers, he became a favorite of the Nicholas's wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, but his political influence was small. He became swept up in the events of the Russian Revolution, and met a brutal death at the hands of assassins in 1916.

Rasputin-Biography

Rasputin-Biography

Early Life

Born to a Siberian peasant family around 1869, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin received little schooling, and probably never learned to read or write. In his early years, some people of his village said he possessed supernatural powers, while others cite examples of extreme cruelty. For a time, it was believed his name "Rasputin" meant "licentious" in Russian. Historians now believe that "Rasputin" meant "where two rivers meet," a phrase that describes an area from where he was born in Siberia.
Rasputin entered the Verkhoture Monestery in Russia with the intention of becoming a monk, but left shortly thereafter, presumably to get married. At age 19, he wed Proskovia Fyodorovna, and they later had three children. In his early 20s, he traveled to Greece and the Middle East, and presumably made several pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Margaret Thatcher Biography - Final Years and Legacy

Final Years and Legacy

Margaret Thatcher's health made headlines in 2010, when she missed a celebration at 10 Downing Street, held in honor of her 85th birthday by David Cameron. Later, in November 2010, Thatcher spent two weeks in the hospital for a condition that was later revealed to cause painful muscle inflammation. In 2011, she sat out such a number of major events, including the wedding of Prince William in April, and the unveiling of the Ronald Reagan sculpture in London in July. Additionally, in July 2011, Thatcher's office in the House of Lords was permanently closed. The closure has been seen by some to mark the end of her public life.

Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

Battling memory problems in her later years due to her strokes, Thatcher retreated from the spotlight, living in near seclusion at her home in London's Belgravia neighborhood.
Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013, at the age of 87. She was survived by her two children, daughter Carol and son Sir Mark. Thatcher's policies and actions continue to be debated by detractors and supporters alike, illustrating the indelible impression that she has left on Britain and nations worldwide.

Margaret-Thatcher-Biography




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Margaret Thatcher Biography - Life After Politics

Resignation

Returning for a third term in 1987, Thatcher sought to implement a standard educational curriculum across the nation and make changes to the country's socialized medical system. However, she lost a lot of support due to her efforts to implement a fixed rate local tax—labeled a poll tax by many since she sought to disenfranchise those who did not pay it. Hugely unpopular, this policy led to public protests and caused dissention within her party.

Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

Thatcher initially pressed on for party leadership in 1990, but eventually yielded to pressure from party members and announced her intentions to resign on November 22, 1990. In a statement, she said, "Having consulted widely among colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a General Election would be better served if I stood down to enable Cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support." On November 28, 1990, Thatcher departed from 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, for the last time.


Life After Politics

Not long after leaving office, Thatcher was appointed to the House of Lords, as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, in 1992. She wrote about her experiences as a world leader and a pioneering woman in the field of politics in two books: The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). In 2002, she published the book Statecraft, in which she offered her views on international politics.

Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

Around this time, Thatcher suffered a series of small strokes. She then suffered a great personal loss in 2003, when her husband of more than 50 years, Denis, died. The following year, Thatcher had to say goodbye to an old friend and ally, Ronald Reagan. In fragile health, Thatcher gave a eulogy at his funeral via video link, praising Reagan as a man who "sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism."

Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

In 2005, Thatcher celebrated her 80th birthday. A huge event was held in her honor and was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair and nearly 600 other friends, family members and former colleagues. Two years later, a sculpture of the strong conservative leader was unveiled in the House of Commons.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Margaret Thatcher Biography - Britain's First Female Premier

Britain's First Female Premier

When Conservatives returned to office in June 1970, Thatcher was appointed secretary of state for education and science, and dubbed "Thatcher, milk snatcher," after her abolition of the universal free school milk scheme. She found her position frustrating, not because of all the bad press around her actions, but because she had difficulty getting Prime Minister Edward Heath to listen to her ideas. Seemingly disenchanted on the future of women in politics, Thatcher was quoted as saying, "I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime," during a 1973 television appearance.
Margaret-Thatcher-Britain-Premier

Thatcher soon proved herself wrong. While the Conservative Party lost power in 1974, Thatcher became a dominant force in her political party. She was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, beating out Heath for the position. With this victory, Thatcher became the first woman to serve as the opposition leader in the House of Commons. England was in a time of economic and political turmoil, with the government nearly bankrupt, employment on the rise and conflicts with labor unions. This instability helped return Conservatives to power in 1979. As party leader, Thatcher made history in May 1979, when she was appointed Britain's first female prime minister.
Margaret-Thatcher-Britain-Premier

Conservative Leadership

As prime minister, Thatcher battled the country's recession by initially raising interest rates to control inflation. She was best known for her destruction of Britain's traditional industries through her attacks on labor organizations such as the miner's union, and for the massive privatization of social housing and public transport. One of her staunchest allies was U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a fellow conservative. The two shared similar right-wing, pro-corporate political philosophies.
Margaret-Thatcher-Britain-Premier

Thatcher faced a military challenge during her first term. In April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland islands. This British territory had long been a source of conflict between the two nations, as the islands are located off the coast of Argentina. Taking swift action, Thatcher sent British troops to the territory to retake the islands in what became known as the Falklands War. Argentina surrendered in June 1982.
In her second term, from 1983 to 1987, Thatcher handled a number of conflicts and crises, the most jarring of which may have been the assassination attempt against her in 1984. In a plot by the Irish Republic Army, she was meant to killed by a bomb planted at the Conservative Conference in Brighton in October. Undaunted and unharmed, Thatcher insisted that the conference continue, and gave a speech the following day.
Margaret-Thatcher-Britain-Premier

As for foreign policy, Thatcher met with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, in 1984. That same year, she signed an agreement with the Chinese government regarding the future of Hong Kong. Publicly, Thatcher voiced her support for Ronald Reagan's air raids on Libya in 1986 and allowed U.S. forces to use British bases to help carry out the attack.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Margaret Thatcher Biography - Early Foray into Politics

Early Foray into Politics

 Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

 

Two years after graduating from college, Thatcher made her first bid for public office. She ran as the conservative candidate for a Dartford parliamentary seat in the 1950 elections. Thatcher knew from the start that it would be nearly impossible to win the position away from the liberal Labour Party. Still she earned the respect of her political party peers with her speeches. Defeated, Thatcher remained undaunted, trying again the following year, but once more her efforts were unsuccessful. Two months after her loss, she married Denis Thatcher.

 Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

In 1952, Thatcher put politics aside for a time to study law. She and her husband welcomed twins Carol and Mark the next year. After completing her training, Thatcher qualified as a barrister, a type of lawyer, in 1953. But she didn't stay away from the political arena for too long. Thatcher won a seat in the House of Commons in 1959, representing Finchley.
 Margaret-Thatcher-Biography

Clearly a woman on the rise, Thatcher was appointed parliamentary under secretary for pensions and national insurance in 1961. When the Labour Party assumed control of the government, she became a member of what is called the Shadow Cabinet, a group of political leaders who would hold Cabinet-level posts if their party was in power.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Margaret Thatcher Biography - Early Life

 The first female prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher was a controversial figurehead of conservative ideology during her time in office.


Born on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's Conservative Party leader and in 1979 was elected prime minister, the first woman to hold the position. During her three terms, she cut social welfare programs, reduced trade union power and privatized certain industries. Thatcher resigned in 1991 due to unpopular policy and power struggles in her party. She died on April 8, 2013, at age 87.

Early Life

Margaret-Thatcher-Child

 

Politician and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was born as Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. Nicknamed the "Iron Lady," Thatcher served as the prime minister of England from 1979 to 1990. The daughter of a local businessman, she was educated at a local grammar school, Grantham Girls' High School. Her family operated a grocery store and they all lived in an apartment above the store. In her early years, Thatcher was introduced to conservative politics by her father, who was a member of the town's council.

Margaret-Thatcher-Early-Life


A good student, Thatcher was accepted to Oxford University, where she studied chemistry at Somerville College. One of her instructors was the Dorothy Hodgkin, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Politically active in her youth, Thatcher served as president of the Conservative Association at the university. She earned a degree in chemistry in 1947, and went on to work as a research chemist in Colchester. Later, she worked as a research chemist in Dartford.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Marie Antoinette Biography - Death and Legacy

In January 1793, the radical new republic placed King Louis XVI on trial, convicted him of treason and condemned him to death. On January 21, 1793, he was dragged to the guillotine and executed. In October of that year, a month into the infamous and bloody Reign of Terror that claimed tens of thousands of French lives, Marie Antoinette was put on trial for treason and theft, as well as a false and disturbing charge of sexual abuse against her own son.

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Death



After the two-day trial, an all-male jury found Marie Antoinette guilty on all charges. Marie Antoinette was sent to the guillotine, as her husband had been several months before, on October 16, 1793. On the night before her execution, she had written her last letter to her sister-in-law, Elisabeth. "I am calm," the queen wrote, "as people are whose conscience is clear." Then, in the moments before her execution, when the priest who was present told her to have courage, Marie Antoinette responded, "Courage? The moment when my ills are going to end is not the moment when courage is going to fail me."

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Death


Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, has been both vilified as the personification of the evils of monarchy and exalted as a pinnacle of fashion and beauty. Marie Antoinette the villain is perhaps best captured by the famous, although almost certainly apocryphal, story that, upon hearing that the people had no bread to eat, she remarked, "Let them eat cake." Marie Antoinette the heroine is reflected in the obsessive scholarship on her choices in wardrobe and jewelry, and the endless speculation about her extramarital love life. Both of these takes on Marie Antoinette's character demonstrate the tendency, as prevalent today as it was in her own time, to depict her life and death as symbolic of the downfall of European monarchies in the face of global revolution.

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Death


As Thomas Jefferson once said, predicting the way Marie Antoinette would be viewed by posterity, "I have ever believed that if there had been no Queen, there would have been no revolution."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Marie Antoinette Biography - Queen of France

Louis XV died in 1774, and Louis-Auguste succeeded him to the French throne as Louis XVI, making Marie Antoinette, at 19 years old, queen of France. The personalities of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could not have been more different. He was introverted, shy and indecisive, a lover of solitary pleasures such as reading and metalwork; she was vivacious, outgoing and bold, a social butterfly who loved gambling, partying and extravagant fashions.
When the king went to bed before midnight, Marie Antoinette's nights of partying and carousing had yet to begin. When she woke up just before noon, he had been at work for hours. When word reached Empress Maria Theresa in 1777 that her daughter and Louis XVI had not yet consummated their marriage, Maria Theresa immediately dispatched her son, Joseph II, Marie Antoinette's older brother, to France to act as a sort of marriage counselor. Whatever his counsels, they apparently worked. A year later, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a daughter, Marie Therese Charlotte.

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Queen-of-France


Beginning in 1780, Marie Antoinette began spending more and more time at the Petit Trianon, her private castle on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, almost always without the king. Around this time the first rumors surfaced about her relationship with Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersen. During the 1780s, with the French government sliding into financial turmoil and poor harvests driving up grain prices across the country, Marie Antoinette's fabulously extravagant lifestyle increasingly became the subject of popular ire. Countless pamphlets accused the queen of ignorance, extravagance and adultery, some featuring salacious cartoons and others dubbing her "Madame Deficit."
In 1785, an infamous diamond-necklace scandal permanently tarnished the queen's reputation. A thief posing as Marie Antoinette had obtained a 647-diamond necklace and smuggled it to London to be sold off in pieces. Though Marie Antoinette was innocent of any involvement, she was nevertheless guilty in the eyes of the people. Refusing to let public criticism alter her behavior, in 1786 Marie Antoinette began building the Hameau de la Reine, an extravagant retreat near the Petit Trianon in Versailles.

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Queen-of-France


On July 14, 1789, 900 French workers and peasants stormed the Bastille prison to take arms and ammunition, marking the beginning of the French Revolution. On October 6 of that year, a crowd estimated at 10,000 gathered outside the Palace of Versailles and demanded that the king and queen be brought to Paris. At the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the always indecisive Louis XVI acted almost paralyzed, and Marie Antoinette immediately stepped into his place, meeting with advisers and ambassadors and dispatching urgent letters to other European rulers, begging them to help save France's monarchy.
In a plot hatched primarily by Marie Antoinette and her lover, Count Axel von Fersen, the royal family attempted to escape France in June 1791, but they were captured and returned to Paris. In September of that year, King Louis XVI agreed to uphold a new constitution drafted by the Constituent National Assembly in return for keeping at least his symbolic power.

Marie-Antoinette-Biography-Queen-of-France


However, in the summer of 1792, with France at war with Austria and Prussia, the increasingly powerful radical Jacobin leader Maximilien de Robespierre called for the removal of the king. In September 1792, after a month of terrible massacres in Paris, the National Convention abolished the monarchy, declared the establishment of a French Republic, and arrested the king and queen.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Marie Antoinette Biography - Marriage to Louis-Auguste

In 1768, Louis XV dispatched a tutor to Austria to instruct his grandson's future wife. The tutor found Marie Antoinette "more intelligent than has been generally supposed," but added that since "she is rather lazy and extremely frivolous, she is hard to teach." Marie Antoinette was a child of only 14 years, delicately beautiful, with gray-blue eyes and ash-blonde hair. In May 1770, she set out for France to be married, escorted by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses.

Marie-Antoinette-Marriage-to-Louis-Auguste

Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were married on May 16, 1770. The young woman did not adjust well, however, to a married life for which she was obviously not ready, and her frequent letters home revealed intense homesickness. "Madame, my very dear mother," she wrote in one letter, "I have not received one of your dear letters without having the tears come to my eyes." She also bristled at some of the rituals she was expected to perform as a lady of the French royal family. "I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world," she complained, referring to a ritual in which she was required to put on her makeup in front of dozens of courtiers.

Marie-Antoinette-Marriage-to-Louis-Auguste

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Marie Antoinette Biography - Early Life


Born on November 2, 1755, in Vienna, Austria, Marie Antoinette helped provoke the popular unrest that led to the French Revolution and to the overthrow of the monarchy in August 1792. She became a symbol of the excesses of the monarchy and is often credited with the famous quote "Let them eat cake," although there is no evidence she actually said it. As a 20-year consort to Louis XVI, she was beheaded nine months after he was, on October 16, 1793, by order of the Revolutionary tribunal.

Early Life

marie_antoinette_young

 

Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna on November 2, 1755, in Vienna, Austria. She was the 15th and second to last child of Maria Theresa, empress of Austria, and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Marie Antoinette lived a relatively carefree childhood. She received an education typical of an 18th century aristocratic girl, focusing primarily on religious and moral principles, while her brothers studied more academic subject matter.

marie_antoinette_young


With the conclusion of the Seven Years' War in 1763, the preservation of a fragile alliance between Austria and France became a priority for Empress Maria Theresa; cementing alliances through matrimonial connections was a common practice among European royal families at the time. In 1765, Louis, dauphin de France (also known as Louis Ferdinand), the son of French monarch Louis XV, died. His death left the king's 11-year-old grandson, Louis-Auguste, heir to the French throne. Within months, Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were pledged to marry each other.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Helen Keller Biography - Later Years, Death and Legacy

Work and Influence

In 1936, Keller's beloved teacher and devoted companion, Anne Sullivan, died. She had experienced health problems for several years and, in 1932, lost her eyesight completely. A young woman named Polly Thompson, who had begun working as a secretary for Keller and Sullivan in 1914, became Keller's constant companion upon Sullivan's death.
In 1946, Keller was appointed counselor of international relations for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind. Between 1946 and 1957, she traveled to 35 countries on five continents. In 1955, at age 75, Keller embarked on the longest and most grueling trip of her life: a 40,000-mile, five-month trek across Asia. Through her many speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people.

Helen-Keller-Biography


Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, was used as the basis for 1957 television drama The Miracle Worker. In 1959, the story was developed into a Broadway play of the same title, starring Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan. The two actresses also performed those roles in the 1962 award-winning film version of the play.

Death and Legacy

Keller suffered a series of strokes in 1961, and spent the remaining years of her life at her home in Connecticut. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women's Hall of Fame in 1965. She also received honorary doctoral degrees from Temple University and Harvard University and from the universities of Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; Delhi, India; and Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
 
Helen-Keller-Biography
 

Keller died in her sleep on June 1, 1968, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday. During her remarkable life, Keller stood as a powerful example of how determination, hard work, and imagination can allow an individual to triumph over adversity. By overcoming difficult conditions with a great deal of persistence, she grew into a respected and world-renowned activist who labored for the betterment of others.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Helen Keller Biography - Social Activism

After college, Keller set out to learn more about the world and how she could help improve the lives of others. News of her story spread beyond Massachusetts and New England.

Helen-Keller-Biography


She became a well-known celebrity and lecturer by sharing her experiences with audiences, and working on behalf of others living with disabilities. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Keller tackled social and political issues, including women's suffrage, pacifism and birth control. She testified before Congress, strongly advocating to improve the welfare of blind people. In 1915, along with renowned city planner George Kessler, she co-founded Helen Keller International to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition. In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union.

Helen-Keller-Biography


When the American Federation for the Blind was established in 1921, Keller had an effective national outlet for her efforts. She became a member in 1924, and participated in many campaigns to raise awareness, money and support for the blind. She also joined other organizations dedicated to helping those less fortunate, including the Permanent Blind War Relief Fund (later called the American Braille Press).
Soon after she graduated from college, Keller became a member of the Socialist Party, most likely due in part to her friendship with John Macy. Between 1909 and 1921, she wrote several articles about socialism and supported Eugene Debs, a Socialist Party presidential candidate. Her series of essays on socialism, entitled "Out of the Dark," described her views on socialism and world affairs.

Helen-Keller-Biography


It was during this time that Keller first experienced public prejudice about her disabilities. For most of her life, the press had been overwhelmingly supportive of her, praising her courage and intelligence. But after she expressed her socialist views, some criticized her by calling attention to her disabilities. One newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, wrote that her "mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development."

Monday, May 5, 2014

Helen Keller Biography - Education and Educator Ann Sullivan

Educator Ann Sullivan

Looking for answers and inspiration, in 1886, Keller's mother came across a travelogue by Charles Dickens, American Notes. She read of the successful education of another deaf and blind child, Laura Bridgman, and soon dispatched Keller and her father to Baltimore, Maryland to see specialist Dr. J. Julian Chisolm. After examining Keller, Chisolm recommended that she see Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell met with Keller and her parents, and suggested that they travel to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. There, the family met with the school's director, Michael Anaganos. He suggested Helen work with one of the institute's most recent graduates, Anne Sullivan. And so began a 49-year relationship between teacher and pupil.
Helen-Keller-and-Ann-Sullivan

In March 1887, Sullivan went to Keller's home in Alabama and immediately went to work. She began by teaching Helen finger spelling, starting with the word "doll," to help Keller understand the gift of a doll she had brought along. Other words would follow. At first, Keller was curious, then defiant, refusing to cooperate with Sullivan's instruction. When Keller did cooperate, Sullivan could tell that she wasn't making the connection between the objects and the letters spelled out in her hand. Sullivan kept working at it, forcing Helen to go through the regimen.
Helen-Keller-and-Ann-Sullivan

As Keller's frustration grew, the tantrums increased. Finally, Sullivan demanded that she and Keller be isolated from the rest of the family for a time, so that Keller could concentrate only on Sullivan's instruction. They moved to a cottage on the plantation.
In a dramatic struggle, Sullivan taught Keller the word "water"; she helped her make the connection between the object and the letters by taking Keller out to the water pump, and placing Keller's hand under the spout. While Sullivan moved the lever to flush cool water over Keller's hand, she spelled out the word w-a-t-e-r on Helen's other hand. Keller understood and repeated the word in Sullivan's hand. She then pounded the ground, demanding to know its "letter name." Sullivan followed her, spelling out the word into her hand. Keller moved to other objects with Sullivan in tow. By nightfall, she had learned 30 words.

A Formal Education

In 1890, Keller began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. She would toil for 25 years to learn to speak so that others could understand her. From 1894 to 1896, she attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. There, she worked on improving her communication skills and studied regular academic subjects.
helen-keller-Formal-Education
 

Around this time, Keller became determined to attend college. In 1896, she attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, a preparatory school for women. As her story became known to the general public, Keller began to meet famous and influential people. One of them was the writer Mark Twain, who was very impressed with her. They became friends. Twain introduced her to his friend Henry H. Rogers, a Standard Oil executive. Rogers was so impressed with Keller's talent, drive and determination that he agreed to pay for her to attend Radcliff College. There, she was accompanied by Sullivan, who sat by her side to interpret lectures and texts.
helen-keller-Formal-Education
 

By this time, Keller had mastered several methods of communication, including touch-lip reading, Braille, speech, typing and finger-spelling. With the help of Sullivan and Sullivan's future husband, John Macy, Keller wrote her first book, The Story of My Life. It covered her transformation from childhood to 21-year-old college student. Keller graduated, cum laude, from Radcliffe in 1904, at the age of 24.
helen-keller-Formal-Education
 

In 1905, Sullivan married John Macy, an instructor at Harvard University, a social critic and a prominent socialist. After the marriage, Sullivan continued to be Keller's guide and mentor. When Keller went to live with the Macys, they both initially gave Keller their undivided attention. Gradually, however, Anne and John became distant to each other, as Anne's devotion to Keller continued unabated. After several years, they separated, though were never divorced.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Helen Keller Biography - Early Life

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she fell ill and was struck blind, deaf and mute. Beginning in 1887, Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. In 1920, Keller helped found the ACLU. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments.

Early Life

Helen Keller was the first of two daughters born to Arthur H. Keller and Katherine Adams Keller. She also had two older stepbrothers. Keller's father had proudly served as an officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The family was not particularly wealthy and earned income from their cotton plantation. Later, Arthur became the editor of a weekly local newspaper, the North Alabamian.
Keller was born with her senses of sight and hearing, and started speaking when she was just 6 months old. She started walking at the age of 1.
Helen-Keller-Childhood

Helen-Keller-Childhood

Helen-Keller-Childhood


Loss of Sight and Hearing

In 1882, however, Keller contracted an illness—called "brain fever" by the family doctor—that produced a high body temperature. The true nature of the illness remains a mystery today, though some experts believe it might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. Within a few days after the fever broke, Keller's mother noticed that her daughter didn't show any reaction when the dinner bell was rung, or when a hand was waved in front of her face. Keller had lost both her sight and hearing. She was just 18 months old.
As Keller grew into childhood, she developed a limited method of communication with her companion, Martha Washington, the young daughter of the family cook. The two had created a type of sign language, and by the time Keller was 7, they had invented more than 60 signs to communicate with each other. But Keller had become very wild and unruly during this time. She would kick and scream when angry, and giggle uncontrollably when happy. She tormented Martha and inflicted raging tantrums on her parents. Many family relatives felt she should be institutionalized.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Charlie Chaplin Biography - Later Films and Final Years

Off-Screen Drama

Chaplin became equally famous for his life off-screen. His affairs with actresses who had roles in his movies were numerous. Some, however, ended better than others.
In 1918 he quickly married 16-year-old Mildred Harris. The marriage lasted two years, and in 1924 he wed again, to another 16-year-old, actress Lita Grey, whom he'd cast in The Gold Rush. The marriage had been brought on by an unplanned pregnancy, and the resulting union, which produced two sons for Chaplin (Charles Jr., and Sydney) was an unhappy one for both partners. The two split in 1927.
In 1936, Chaplin married again, this time to a chorus girl who went by the film name of Paulette Goddard. They lasted until 1942. That was followed by a nasty paternity suit with another actress, Joan Barry, in which tests proved Chaplin was not the father of her daughter but a jury still ordered him to pay child support.
In 1943, Chaplin married 18-year-old Oona O'Neil, the daughter of playwright, Eugene O'Neil. Unexpectedly the two would go on to have a happy marriage, one that would result in eight children for the couple.

charlie-chaplin-Later-Films


Later Films

Chaplin kept creating interesting and engaging films in the 1930s. In 1931, he released City Lights, a critical and commercial success that incorporated music Chaplin scored himself.

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More acclaim came with Modern Times (1936), a biting commentary about the state of world's economic and political infrastructures. The film, which did incorporate sound and did not include "The Little Tramp" character, was, in part, the result of an 18-month world tour Chaplin had taken between 1931 and 1932, a trip in which he'd witnessed severe economic angst and a sharp rise in nationalism in Europe and elsewhere.
Chaplin spoke even louder in The Great Dictator (1940), which pointedly ridiculed the governments of Hitler and Mussolini. "I want to see the return of decency and kindness," Chaplin said around the time of the film's release. "I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy . . ."

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But Chaplin was not universally embraced. His romantic liaisons led to his rebuke by some women's groups, which in turn led to him being barred from entering some U.S. states. As the Cold War age settled into existence, Chaplin didn't withhold his fire from injustices he saw taking place in the name of fighting Communism in his adopted country of the United States.
Chaplin soon became a target of the right wing conservatives. Representative John E. Ranking of Mississippi pushed for his deportation. In 1952, the Attorney General of the United States obliged when he announced that Chaplin, who was sailing to Britain on vacation, was not permitted to return to the United States unless he could prove "moral worth." The incensed Chaplin said goodbye to United States and took up residence on a small farm in Vevey, Switzerland.

Final Years

 
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Nearing the end of his life, Chaplin did make one last return to visit to the United States in 1972, when he was awarded a special Academy Award from the Motion Picture Academy. The trip came just six years after Chaplin's final film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1966), the filmmaker's first and only color movie. Despite a cast that included Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, the film did poorly at the box office. In 1975, Chaplin received more recognition when Queen Elizabeth knighted him.

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In the early morning hours of December 25, 1977, Charlie Chaplin died at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland. His wife Oona and seven of his children were at his bedside at the time of his passing. In a twist that might very well have come out of one of his films, Chaplin's body was stolen not long after he was buried from his grave near Lake Geneva in Switzerland by two men who demanded $400,000 for its return. The men were arrested and Chaplin's body was recovered 11 weeks later.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Charlie Chaplin Biography - Early And Film Career

Early Career

Armed with his mother's love of the stage, Chaplin was determined to make it in show business himself and in 1897 using his mother's contacts landed with a clog dancing troupe named the Eight Lancashire Lads. It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could.
"I (was) newsvendor, printer, toymaker, doctor's boy, etc., but during these occupational digressions, I never lost sight of my ultimate aim to become an actor," Chaplin later recounted. "So, between jobs I would polish my shoes, brush my clothes, put on a clean collar and make periodic calls at a theatrical agency."

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Charlie-Chaplin-Early-Career

Eventually other stage work did come his way. Chaplin made his acting debut as a pageboy in a production of Sherlock Holmes. From there he toured with a vaudeville outfit named Casey's Court Circus and in 1908 teamed up with the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, where Chaplin became one of its stars as The Drunk in the comedic sketch, A Night in an English Music Hall.
With the Karno troupe, Chaplin got his first taste of the United States, where he caught the eye of film producer Mack Sennett, who signed Chaplin to a contract for a $150 a week.

Film Career

In 1914 Chaplin made his film debut in a somewhat forgettable one-reeler called Make a Living. To differentiate himself from the clad of other actors in Sennett films, Chaplin decided to play a single identifiable character. "The Little Tramp" was born, with audiences getting their first taste of him in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914).
Over the next year, Chaplin appeared in 35 movies, a lineup that included Tillie's Punctured Romance, film's first full-length comedy. In 1915 Chaplin left Sennett to join the Essanay Company, which agreed to pay him $1,250 a week. It's with Essanay that Chaplin, who by this time had hired his brother Sydney to be his business manager, rose to stardom.

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During his first year with the company, Chaplin made 14 films, including The Tramp (1915). Generally regarded as the actor's first classic, the story establishes Chaplin's character as unexpected hero when he saves farmer's daughter from a gang of robbers.
By the age of 26, Chaplin, just three years removed from his vaudeville days was a movie superstar. He'd moved over to the Mutual Company, which paid him a whopping $670,000 a year. The money made Chaplin a wealthy man, but it didn't seem to derail his artistic drive. With Mutual, he made some of his best work, including One A.M. (1916), The Rink (1916), The Vagabond (1916), and Easy Street (1917).
Through his work, Chaplin came to be known as a grueling perfectionist. His love for experimentation often meant countless retakes and it was not uncommon for him to order the rebuilding of an entire set. It also wasn't rare for him to begin with one leading actor, realize he'd made a mistake in his casting, and start again with someone new.

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But the results were hard to refute. During the 1920s Chaplin's career blossomed even more. During the decade he made some landmark films, including The Kid (1921), The Pilgrim (1923), A Woman in Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), a movie Chaplin would later say he wanted to be remembered by, and The Circus (1928). The latter three were released by United Artists, a company Chaplin co-founded in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith.