16 July 1557: Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, dies at the age of forty-two.

It was in Chelsea that Anna fell ill in the spring of 1557 and here that she spent the months of her decline. She died on 16 July 1557. Anna, the daughter of Cleves, was in her forty-second year. She did not live to see the accession of King Henry’s last child, Elizabeth, the girl whom she had once petted, on 17 November 1558. Given the lingering course of the Lady Anna’s illness, cancer seems a likely cause of her death. But no particular explanation was felt to be needed for the decease of a woman of her age. She had indeed exceeded the life expectancy of her sex, so often laid low by the peril she never had a chance to endure: child-bearing. Anna of Cleves had also outlived Henry VIII, the man to whom she had been ‘married’ for six months, by ten years.

The last will and testament of Anne of Cleves dating from shortly before her death justified the reputation granted to her as ‘a good housekeeper and very bountiful to servants’… The Privy Council issued orders for the funeral which was intended to pay suitable tribute to the anomalous but nevertheless distinguished position she occupied. The funeral took place on 4 August, the body being brought by water from Chelsea to Charing Cross the night before and the carried to Westminster Abbey.

- Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII

Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy
Though she was Canadian, Sarah Emma Edmonds fought for the Union during the Civil War. She adopted the name Franklin Thompson while traveling. Disguised as a man, she enlisted and began a career as a nurse, courier and spy (if you believe her memoir).

On this day in 1861: The First Battle of Bull Run, aka Manassas. We talk about it in this podcast on Sarah Emma Edmonds.

Mata Hari, Sinister Salome?
Mata Hari was an exotic dancer and a courtesan, but today she's known more for her work as a spy. In this podcast, Katie and Sarah take a look at the extraordinary life of Mata Hari -- and whether the French intelligence community used her as a scapegoat.

Mata Hari was sentenced to die on this day in 1917. Here’s our podcast on her from the archive. 

Today is Emmett Till's 74th birthday.

Today is Emmett Till’s 74th birthday.

A young boy from Chicago, Till was killed by white men during a visit to his great-uncle Moses Wright’s house in Money, Miss. While the precise details of Till’s actions remain unclear, he was perceived to have offended a white woman, and thus crossed the racial boundaries of 1955 Mississippi. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had her son laid out in the glass-topped casket so the world could see “what they did to my boy.” He was buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in suburban Chicago. The body was exhumed for an autopsy in 2005 during another criminal investigation into his murder, and Till was reburied in another coffin.

Till’s murder and the images of his body, first published in Jet magazine and carried around the world by the news media, are considered by historians to be the beginning of the civil rights movement in America.

“We are both honored and humbled that the Till family has entrusted this sacred object to the museum for preservation and safekeeping,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the museum. “The death of Emmett Till shocked the conscience of the world and fueled the civil rights movement. It is our duty to ensure that this iconic artifact is preserved so that we will never forget.“

Learn more about how we will honor Till’s legacy: bit.ly/1gbsu6I

Compiled by Lanae S., Social Media Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Trinitite: Man’s dodgiest geological creation? #OTD

The New Mexican desert is suddenly lit by a flash of blinding light, a huge fireball forms within seconds, miles high, gradually giving way to a dark and roiling mushroom cloud climbing up towards the stratosphere, raining semi molten debris of what was once sand and cheap military spec prefab buildings.

We all love tektites like Moldavite or Lybian desert glass, those lovely green to yellow splashes of fused silica that result from asteroid impacts melting the rocks that they slam into, but here is similar glass that rained down from this event when the sun momentarily came down to Earth, vaporising and congealing the sand and buuildings at the test site, which has become a bit of a collectors piece.

Trinitite was formed at the first test of an atomic bomb on July 16 1945; 70 years ago today.

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