June 17th in history:
An empress of India died during childbirth on June 17th, 1631, and her tomb has become one of the world’s most recognizable works of architecture. It took over 20 years to build the monument to Mumtaz Mahal, called (logically enough) the Taj Mahal.
One of the most famous statues of a woman arrived in the U.S. on June 17th, 1885. The pieces were all boxed up aboard a ship from France, and it took a year to put them together, to form the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
There was no statue of any kind waiting for Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet when they reached the Mississippi River on June 17th, 1673. They were the first white men to see the northern part of the Mississippi, as they arrived at the mouth of the Wisconsin River. But today, a few miles north of that point, a statue of Marquette stands high on a pedestal near a bridge linking Marquette, Iowa, and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
May 20th in history:
Vasco da Gama reached India on this date in 1498, after starting in Portugal and going around Africa.
Charles Lindbergh began his historic flight across the Atlantic from Long Island on May 20th, 1927. He was the first person to successfully fly solo across the ocean to Europe without stopping.
Lindbergh’s flight began on the 19th birthday of future movie star Jimmy Stewart (1908). In 1957, Stewart would star as Lindbergh in a movie about the flight to Paris, called The Spirit of St. Louis.
Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story,” and his hit movies include “Vertigo” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also starred as a lawyer in the CBS TV series “Hawkins” in 1973. Another prime-time series on CBS in ’73 was “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Cher, born on this date in 1946, moved beyond records and TV to a successful movie career, and won a Best Actress Oscar for “Moonstruck” in 1987.
January 19th in history:
On this date in 1953, Lucille Ball had two babies — one in real life, and one on TV. Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born on the same day that Lucy Ricardo gave birth to “Little Ricky” on “I Love Lucy.” Two-thirds of the households in America watched “Lucy” that night.
In the 1960s, Indira Gandhi made history by becoming the first female prime minister of India. The daughter of former Prime Minister Nehru was elected to the job on January 19, 1966.
Mrs. Gandhi was still prime minister when U.S. President Gerald Ford was leaving office in 1977. One of Ford’s last official acts as president was to pardon Iva Toguri d’Aquino, who broadcast Japanese propaganda to American troops during World War II. She was the woman most identified with the nickname “Tokyo Rose.”