On this day 80 years ago, the great blues singer Etta James was born in Los Angeles. Her iconic 1960 hit “At Last”, often played at weddings, was among 9 US Top 40 hits that earned her multiple awards. After that debut hit album, she faced a number of personal problems, including heroin addiction, severe physical abuse, and incarceration, before making a musical comeback in the late 1980s. In April 2009, at the age of 71, James made her final television appearance before succumbing to leukemia, performing At Last on Dancing with the Stars. WATCH her perform the song at her induction into the Rock Hall of Fame… (1938)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- City of São Paulo founded in Brazil (1554)
- The Wedding March by Mendelssohn was played at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter and became a favorite recessional (1858)
- The United Mine Workers of America was founded in order to improve working conditions and wages for coal miners (1890)
- AT&T completed the first transcontinental telephone call in the US (1915)
- The League of Nations was founded (1919)
- Bubble Wrap was invented, and although it failed in its original purpose as a textured wallpaper, it became a popular shipping insulation, and a fascination for children and the young at heart (1960)
- Pope John Paul II demanded the release of political prisoners during a historic visit to Cuba (1998)
- Egypt’s revolution began as thousands of anti-government protesters, inspired by the Tunisian uprising, clashed with police and demanded the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule (2011)
And on this date in 1890, pioneering journalist Nellie Bly completed a record breaking trip around the world in 72 days, to prove that Jules Verne’s fictional journey (“Around the World in 80 Days”) could be achieved. She traveled the 24,899 miles, mostly alone, using steamships and trains, wearing only the dress on her back, a sturdy overcoat and carrying a small travel bag with toiletries and underwear.
While circumnavigating the globe for her newspaper, modern submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph allowed Bly to send short progress reports, although longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and thus, were delayed by several weeks.
Nellie Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, first became renown for her undercover investigation on insane asylum conditions, during which she pretended to be mad. Her expose led to a grand jury investigation and $850,000 in increased funds to care for the insane.
Her career began when she was 16, after a misogynistic column, “What Girls Are Good For,” ran in the Pittsburgh Dispatch and prompted her to write a fiery anonymous rebuttal to the editor. He was so impressed with her passion that he ran an advertisement asking the author to identify herself. When Ms. Cochrane introduced herself to the editor, George Madden, he offered her the opportunity to write a piece for the newspaper. Learn more about this fascinating female at Wikipedia. (Nellie wrote books about her experiences, and there are books for children about her trip.)