On Wednesday, I shared the story of Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first female U.S. Senator. It was, in general, a well-received article, perhaps even more notably than some others. (A podcast host reached out to me; one of you forwarded it to him and he may run an episode featuring it. So that’s cool.) But it wasn’t perfect. As a few of you pointed out, I made a mistake which could fairly have been interpreted as a rather provocative political statement. Here’s the mistake, in bold, which I’ve removed from the article itself.
By the time that 1922 Senate election were to come around, though, the [Nineteeth] Amendment had become part of the Constitution. Women (well, white women), therefore, were eligible to vote.
The truth is I screwed up on the order of the Amendments; for some reason, I thought that the amendment guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race came after this one. It’s a ridiculous mistake on my part because I know very well that the 15th Amendment did that. And as one of the post-Civil War Amendments, it obviously came well before 1922.
I received a good amount of pointed, negative feedback about the mistake. One person, quite fairly, suggested that I was trying to make a point about poll taxes, literacy requirements, and other Jim Crow laws that perpetuated segregation and made it difficult for Black citizens in particular to exercise their right to vote; while that reader appreciated my effort, she saw it as misplaced and ultimately misguided. I think, as a subconscious level, I probably was thinking about such barriers to voting — if you look at the bonus fact on that article, Felton was an unrepentant white supremacist, and I definitely had that fact in mind as I wrote the main story. But the fact remains that in 1922, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
In telling these stories day in and day out, I try to make sure I have the facts right. In this case, not only did I get it wrong, but I led you all to the wrong conclusion as a result.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: The Ultimate Toys R Us Kid?: I do not have good memories of Toys R Us, which is probably not an indictment of the toy store, but I figured I’d share anyway.
Tuesday: Return Doo Sender: I’m mostly joking here but there’s so much great trivia about animal poop, you could probably write a book about it.
Wednesday: The First Female Senator (For a Day): See above.
Thursday: Home Sweet Apartment Building: As I said, this was a reader-suggested re-run. If you have a favorite you want me to re-share, email me to let me know!
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend.
1) “The psychology behind ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’” (BBC, November 2020). The subhead: “Many young Chinese workers prioritize leisure time over sleep after long work days – even though they know it’s unhealthy. What’s driving this behavior?” I was somewhat guilty of this (although not to the extreme) for years. One of the positive changes I’ve made over the course of the pandemic was to, basically, end this bad habit. On the other hand, I’ve watched many fewer movies over the last year than I have in years past.
2) “The Two Sides of Diego Maradona” (The Ringer, 36 minutes, October 2019). Maradona passed away on November 25th; this is probably the best article about him out there. The subhead: “The lifelong story of Maradona is that the more broken and ugly something is when it enters his sphere of influence, the more beautiful and joyous that thing tends to become. The opposite is also very often true.”
3) “Meet TIME’s First-Ever Kid of the Year” (TIME, 15 minutes, December 2020). I have a lot of issues, generally, with “best XYZ of the past year” articles, in no small part because everything that happens in December gets forgotten. But I really like how TIME decided to feature an innovative, future-focused kid.
Have a great weekend!