This Day in History – February 11 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s substack — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.




1812 – Massachusetts Governor Eldridge Gerry signs redistricting law.

The new voting map was designed in such a way that the Federalist-leaning areas were concentrated into a few districts. It worked, for in the next election Gerry’s Republican party won 29 seats while the Federalist garnered only 11. When drawn out as a map, Gerry’s own district was so distorted it resembled the shape of a salamander. The editor of the Boston Gazette reportedly said, “Salamander! Let’s call it Gerrymander.” Thus the name was born.

It has been used as an insidious political device ever since to subvert the will of the voting public. In many instances the party receiving the most votes will still not be in control of the legislative body, which is the intent of gerrymandering. So the only way to rectify this would be from the judicial system, and I’ll leave it to your level of cynicism to determine how much faith you will place in that possibility.


1945 – Yalta Agreement signed.

The big three, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, met at Yalta in Crimea from February 4th through the 11th. They negotiated what would happen once Germany was defeated. They decided Germany would be divided into four sectors, with England, France, the U.S., and Russia each controlling a sector. There would be an international court where leading German officials would be charged with war crimes. Russia agreed there would be democratic elections in the Eastern European countries it now occupied. The western allies, believing they still needed help in the Pacific war, offered war spoils to Russia in exchange for them entering the war against Japan.

The agreement was later criticized because it abandoned Poland to Russia. Also, because of the atomic bomb, Russia’s help against Japan wasn’t needed. It was generally felt that Stalin had outmaneuvered Churchill and Roosevelt. Especially after communism was established throughout the Eastern Bloc and no democratic elections held. But, as one American delegate to the conference said, “It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.” The fact was that Russia occupied all the Eastern European countries and there was no way they were going to leave, other than by force.

There’s a great scene at the end of the movie “Patton” where Patton and a Red Army general go eyeball to eyeball, as if to mark the beginning of the Cold War. Essentially, force was the only option available, and to the war weary West, it was not an option they were willing to exercise.


1958 – Ruth Carol Taylor becomes stewardess.

She was the first African-American to become what is now called a flight attendant. Already turned down by TWA, Taylor was chosen from 800 other black candidates by Mohawk Airlines. At the time there were all kinds of requirements for stewardesses including height, weight, age, and attractiveness. They also had to be single and when Taylor married six months later she lost the job.

Taylor returned to nursing, published a nursing journal, and was an activist in the fight for civil rights. In 1985 she wrote a book, a guide for young black American men on how to succeed in a racist world.

Sadly, that book is needed today as much as ever.



1802 – Lydia Maria Child.

From Wikipedia:  Child “was an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, Native American rights activist, novelist, journalist, and opponent of American expansionism.” She was so opposed to slavery that she thought that evil had to be eradicated before women’s rights could be addressed. However she saw a similarity in that slaves and women were both viewed as property by white male supremacists. Her writings shocked many people, as when she wrote about a marriage between a Native American man and a white woman. To make it even more shocking, they had a child together.

Although she was raised as a Calvinist, she later rejected theology. One of her quotes: “It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work that theology has done in the world. What a blooming paradise would the whole earth be if the same amount of intellect, labor, and zeal had been expended on science, agriculture, and the arts!” Child also wrote the famous Thanksgiving poem, “Over the river and through the wood.”

Again, one of the joys of doing this blog is discovering and reading about people previously unknown to me. It is so heartening to read about someone like Lydia Maria Child. (She went by her middle name and pronounced it Ma-rye-ah) Someone, who through the darkness, saw the world in such a clear light. Were there more of her, then and now.


1921 – Lloyd Bentsen.

U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and vice presidential candidate.

His most famous quote, to Dan Quayle in a debate. “I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

1964 – Sarah Palin.

Governor and vice presidential candidate.

Quote, to Glenn Beck on his radio show. “But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.”

Both were defeated in their bid to become vice president.


1917 – Sidney Sheldon.

Writer and producer. Sheldon achieved success on television by creating “The Patty Duke Show,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” and “Hart to Hart.” After TV, he turned to writing novels. Some of his books rose to number one on the best selling list. They usually featured a strong female protagonist and were popular with women readers. He was especially popular with a small cadre of English speaking elite in North Korea where books were mostly banned.

Well, after all, North Korea is an ally of ours.



At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at



The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers:

The Library Of Congress 

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin Statue) – Viacheslav Lopatin / – LIVADIA, CRIMEA – MAY 17, 2016: Soviet leader Stalin with Churchill and Roosevelt. Statue by Zurab Tsereteli in the Livadia Palace, Crimea, Russia. The famous Yalta Conference was held there in 1945.”

* Lydia Maria Child (video) – permproductions /

* Lloyd Bentsen (video) – CBS News /

* Sidney Sheldon (video) – FoundationINTERVIEWS /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /