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Saturday, February 14, 2009

History's lovers

I was going to begin a blog on weapons, but this seemed inherently wrong on Valentine's day. Instead, tribute is paid some of my favorite couples from history.

First, technically second, is John Adams and his wife, Abigail. The second, first couple of the United States. They courted, fell in love, had children, moved to the president's house and nurtured a new country.

Feminist studies usually include a series of tender letters the two wrote each through their lives. Abigail was anti slavery, and a believer in education for all sexes and races, her husband shared her progressive ideas. He admired her wit and intelligence, the tone of his letters were always loving.

Women, Abigail believed, should not be bound by laws in conflict with their best interest. In a letter to the continental congress, she addressed this issue:
"...I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives."But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet."

John replied, commenting on her sauciness:"We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects. We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight."

Their love never faded through the challenges of raising children and countries. Upon her death, Abigail's last words were: "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long."

Winston Churchill doesn't seem like the typical romantic hero. He was brash, drank a bit, his humor was quick and cutting at times. He knew his destiny and saw England through two world wars. His wife, Clementine and he were married in 1904. while Winston excelled in all things military, Clementine was chairman of the Red Cross aid to Russia fund, and president of the young Christian women's association. She stood by her husband even when he was criticized for his hawkish views by those who favored appeasement with the Nazi's.

One woman, so annoyed by Churchill's views told him: "If you were my husband, I would poison your coffee."Winston assured her "If I were your husband, I would drink it."

Despite his never say die philosophy, he held his wife in deepest regard. When a reporter asked "If you could be anyone in the world other than you, who would it be." Without hesitation Winston replied "Mrs. Churchill's second husband."

Across the channel, boxer Max Schmeling had his own issues with appeasement. He married Anny Ondra, an Austrio-Hungarian actress. Politely refused Hitler's request for him to join the Nazi party, rescued two Jewish children from Gestapo and smuggled them to America. He refused to fire his Jewish manager and enraged the Nazi's by refusing to be part of their propaganda.
Anny begged him to be more compliant, reminding him he is not untouchable.
Max was saddled with many titles he never wanted in his pursuit of the one he wanted, heavy weight champion of the world. Angry Max wouldn't comply with the party, Hitler sent him on suicide missions as a paratrooper.

Max survived the war and lived to be 99. His beloved Anny at his side through it all until her death.
Max said in an interview: " I had a happy marriage and a nice wife. I accomplished everything you can. What more can you want?"

Love gives you the strength to be something better than you would be without it.


Joyce Moore said...

Jen: Very interesting about Churchill. We seldom read about the wives, so this was interesting to me.

Jen Childers said...

Churchill is such a character!
He almost seems like he is too animated to be a real person. Great quotes from him are still in use, though some are distorted.
Thanks for reading.