Happy 50th Birthday to Mary Lou Retton, the pioneering gymnast who became the first American woman to win the sport’s individual all-around gold medal at the Olympics—the only one to do so for 20 years. At the ’84 Los Angeles games, she won the gold, after scoring a perfect 10 on the vault. Her performances, which also won her 2 silver medals and two bronze, made her one of the most popular athletes in America—and an inspiration to the four gymnasts who have since equaled her feat on the U.S. team. WATCH the plucky powerhouse at the Olympics and hear her thoughts. (1968)

The author of Mary Lou Retton’s Gateways to Happiness: 7 Ways to a More Peaceful, More Prosperous, More Satisfying Life, she was also the first female athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties cereal box.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The University of Calcutta was founded, the first full-fledged university in south Asia (1857)
  • Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts (1908)
  • The first Apple Macintosh computer with mouse went on sale (1984)
  • NASA landed Opportunity, a robotic rover, on Mars three weeks after its identical twin, Spirit (2004)
  • Lady Gaga played a concert in New York City and donated all the money from merchandise and ticket sales—a half million dollars—to earthquake relief in Haiti (2010)

And, on this day 170 years ago, a gold nugget was found at Sutter’s Mill in northern California by James Marshall, sparking the gold rush of ’49.

The news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of immigration and gold into the money supply reinvigorated the American economy. (1848)

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