History

Women workers united in the 1800s

The city of Lowell, Massachusetts, was famous for its textile mills during the Industrial Revolution. In the 1830s, around 8,000 women worked at the mills. The working conditions were terrible. The air inside the mills was full of dust. Women worked 13 or 14 hours a day for very low pay.

In 1834, the mill owners decided to pay the women even less. The women were angry and joined together to fight the owners. They went on strike (refused to go to work) until they got their wages back. But the owners wouldn’t agree, and the women had to go back to work. 

The origin of the English pub

Atlas Obscura, a publication about travel and culture, notes that a pub has always been more than just a place that sells beer for the British. The pub has brought communities together for centuries, and the tavern tradition of spending the evening with your peers continues to this day. Few know, however, that pubs became popular following the plague known as the Black Death of the 14th century.

The Black Death killed nearly half of England's population after it reached the British Isles in 1348. By the 1370s, it had caused a critical labor shortage. Eventually, this proved a boon for the peasantry of England, who could demand higher wages for their work and achieve higher standards of living. As a result, households selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by more commercialized, permanent establishments set up by the best brewers and offering better food.

Forest bathing stress away

National Geographic answers the question: what is forest bathing? The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku. It can mean “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”. The purpose was to offer an ecological antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with the country’s forests.

The Japanese quickly embraced this form of ecotherapy. In the 1990s, researchers began studying the physiological benefits of forest bathing, providing the science to support the idea that time spent surrounded by nature is good for us. The concept at the heart of shinrin-yoku is not new. Many cultures around the world have long recognized the importance of the natural world to human health.

Modern humans hold ancient DNA

For a long time, we believed that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens (modern humans) were two separate species. With the advent of DNA sequencing, however, it was discovered that Sapiens interbred with Neanderthals as they migrated from Africa 60,000 years ago. Another previously unknown hominid species, known as Denisovans, was also discovered at that time, and it interbred with Sapiens and Neanderthals, too.

Gene sequencing shows that non-African genomes today contain about 2% Neanderthal DNA, and people from Papua, New Guinea, and Australia are about 3% Denisovan. Studies on modern African DNA are taking longer because climate, geography and politics make locating skeletons much more difficult.

Humans are compassionate by nature

Bones found in Ireland show that humans have taken care of each other since ancient times. The bones, buried 5,500 years ago, belonged to a child with Down Syndrome. The baby lived to be about 6 months old and was breastfed. When it died, it was buried in a monumental tomb with other adults and children. 

In 2007, at an archaeological site in Vietnam, the bones of a man with a crippling disease were uncovered in a Stone Age grave. His bones indicate that he had a painful condition that would have left him paralyzed for the last several years of his life. Clearly, he was carried by others and given food and other resources that were always scarce in those days. 

How humanity nearly went extinct

According to NPR, around the year 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba on Sumatra Island in Indonesia, erupted, blowing about a thousand kilometres of vaporized rock into the air. It is by far the largest volcanic eruption we know of.

That eruption dropped roughly six centimeters of ash over all of South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian and South China Sea. With so much ash, dust and vapor in the air, science writer Sam Kean says Toba "dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains, choked off streams and scattered whole cubic miles of hot ash (imagine wading through a giant ashtray) across acres and acres of plants." Berries, fruits, trees, African game became rare. Early humans, living in East Africa just across the Indian Ocean from Mount Toba, probably starved, or at least, he says, "It's not hard to imagine the population plummeting."

Men artists: Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) was part of the French Impressionist art movement, the first school of art to break away from classical painting. Impressionism focuses on the light and colors of a particular moment in time. Because artists wanted to capture a brief moment and didn't have cameras yet, they needed to paint quickly. So they used quick, flat strokes without precise detail.

They also used colors in new ways. The best example is that shadows aren't just the object's color with gray or brown mixed in. Instead, the painters added strokes of the complementary color of the object (e.g., strokes of red in the shadow of something green). This makes the shadows come alive. 

Men artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was part of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s, led by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's primitive style grew out of his time as a graffiti artist in New York City. People first knew him as part of the anonymous duo SAMO© (pronounced "same-o"), with Al Diaz. They were among the first to use words to communicate thoughts, rather than just tags with names and numbers.

For 3 years, from the age of 17–20, Basquiat sold his art on t-shirts and postcards on the street for a couple of bucks each. Finally, he made it into a group show at an art gallery. People and critics loved his work, and in no time people were paying $50,000 or more for one of his pieces.

The child of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the Black and Latino experience into the fine art world. His art was angry and harsh, yet also poetic. He was able to express a reality that had long been excluded from elite society.

Women artists: Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Limpicka (1898–1980) was a key artist in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and '30s. Born in Poland, she also spent a lot of time in France and the U.S. Her real fame came when high-fashion magazines began to use her art for their covers. Soon she was painting portraits of the aristocracy, and even royalty. Although her name is not well-known today outside of Art Deco fans, de Lempicka was one of the most important and popular artists of the Art Deco movement.

Art Deco grew out of Cubism and the Arts and Crafts movement, adding elements of "exotic" Asian, Egyptian and Mayan art. It used simple forms and planes of color to create new designs representing luxury and wealth. The pieces also represented faith in social and technological progress.

Women artists: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is thought of today as one of Mexico's greatest artists. Her most famous paintings are self-portraits. Of her 143 paintings, 55 were self-portraits. She once said, "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

Kahlo grew up during the Mexican Revolution and was part of the Mexicanidad movement, which celebrated indigenous Mexican culture. She painted in a Magical Realist folk art style, with the colors and imagery of Mexican indigenous culture. Magical Realism combines realistic detail with surrealistic imagery. In the painting shown above, Roots, Kahlo depicts herself lying on rocky ground with vines growing out of her chest. The details are very realistic, but the image itself is surreal.