Currently I’m reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s El sueño del celta (The Dream of the Celt) about the life of forgotten human-rights advocate Sir Roger Casement (see Casement’s famous Statement before the Dock) who exposed colonial and corporate barbarism in Congo, Brazil, Peru, and Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century.
In recounting the story of Casement, Vargas Llosa reminds me again of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews: “Do you not see what this means–all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God …” (12:1-2, Message).
So here are a few of those witnesses and pioneers for the date of 17 June:
1864: Twenty-one young women and girls making cartridges for the Union Army at the Washington, D.C. arsenal during the Civil War are killed in an accidental explosion. Most of the victims were Irish immigrants. A monument was erected in the Congressional Cemetery, where 17 of the workers were buried.
1873: Susan B. Anthony goes on trial in Canandaigua, N.Y., for casting her ballot in a federal election the previous November, in violation of existing statutes barring women from the vote.
1903: Mary Harris “Mother” Jones leads a rally in Philadelphia to focus public attention on children mutilated in the state’s textile mills. Three weeks later the 73-year-old will lead a march to New York City to plead with President Theodore Roosevelt to help improve conditions for the children.