Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine March 2019

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Issues

In this issue

3 min.

Abigail Tucker The longtime Smithsonian correspondent has excavated a long-forgotten figure, Wendell Phillips (p. 24). Dubbed America’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” the globe-trotting explorer made significant discoveries in Yemen, and left a complicated legacy. “My favorite part of reporting was discovering his voice,” she says. “As I came across the things he had written so vividly, he sort of rose up out of the desert sand before my eyes.” Tucker is the author of the New York Times best seller The Lion in the Living Room. Her next book, which will explore maternal biology, is due out next year. Evan Thomas As a correspondent for Time, Thomas covered Sandra Day O’Connor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1981. As Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, he wrote about her retirement 25 years later. This month Random…

3 min.

FROM THE EDITORS THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, the focus of our January/February issue, struck a chord with veterans like Jerry R. Miller of Los Angeles: “This is a treasure I would ask to be buried with if I had not already signed up for cremation.” Allen Levy of Culver City, California, said, “Your superb issue was a bitter reminder, as C.J. Chivers wrote, of what happens when a superpower misjudges its foes and then changes its mind.” Gay McMillan in Austin, Texas, promised to share the magazine “so others can experience these powerful stories and see the images that capture war’s truth.” One historic image, however, showing the corpse of an American soldier on a street in Mogadishu, gave some readers pause. Even though the photograph was awarded a Pulitzer…

4 min.
plot twist!

LONG BEFORE DAENERYS TARGARYEN commanded her dragons to torch armies of White Walkers in “Game of Thrones,” another strong, visionary woman sparked the revolution that makes today’s epic entertainment so profitable, if not plausible. Irna Phillips, a scriptwriter and radio actor, led the way with a bold innovation whose impact on world culture everyone underestimated: “These Are My Children,” the first daytime serial television drama, which she created 70 years ago. Phillips went on to turn her successful radio drama “Guiding Light” into a TV soap opera in 1952 and also launched “As the World Turns” (1956) and “Another World” (1964). Critics, of course, hated TV’s newest dramas. “Last week television caught the dread disease of radio—soapoperitis,” Pathfinder news magazine complained when “These Are My Children” debuted. Trade publication Variety found…

1 min.
guiding lights

UNITED KINGDOM The Archers 1950-PRESENT This “everyday story of country folk” was originally designed to teach modern farming methods. BRAZIL Brave Women 2012-2013 Authorities rescued a victim of sex trafficking after her mother earned about the warning signs on this soap. MEXICO Come With Me 1975-1976 The show promoted adult literacy; enrollment in such classes jumped ninefold. SUDAN Sails of Hope 2004-2006 An AIDS focus more than doubled the likelihood of discussing the disease with partners. SOUTH AFRICA Soul City 1994-PRESENT A 1999 storyline about domestic violence prompted 180,000 phone calls to an abuse prevention hotline. AFGHANISTAN New Home, New Life 1994-PRESENT A story raising awareness of land mines made listeners in affected areas half as likely to be hurt by one. RWANDA New Dawn 2004-PRESENT Increased acceptance of marriage between Hutus and Tutsis after the genocide. KENYA Let’s Discuss 1987-1988 Focused on family planning; coincided with falling fertility rates, from 6.3 to 4.4 children per woman. PAKISTAN Sammi 2017 Tackled sex discrimination with storylines…

5 min.
america’s first poster child

ON FEBRUARY 19, 1855, Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts senator, wrote his supporters about an enslaved 7-year-old girl whose freedom he had helped to secure. She would be joining him onstage at an abolitionist lecture that spring. “I think her presence among us (in Boston) will be a great deal more effective than any speech I could make,” the noted orator wrote. He said her name was Mary, but he also referred to her, significantly, as “another Ida May.” Sumner enclosed a daguerreotype of Mary standing next to a small table with a notebook at her elbow. She is neatly outfitted in a plaid dress, with a solemn expression on her face, and looks for all the world like a white girl from a well-to-do family. When the Boston Telegraph published Sumner’s…

1 min.
publish or perish

WITH NEARLY six million articles in English alone, Wikipedia is the world’s go-to resource for facts on topics from “the arts” to “berserk llama syndrome.” Still, there’s one area where the crowd-sourced reference falls short: the achievements of women, who make up less than 19 percent of Wikipedia’s biographies. But there might just be a 19th-century solution to this 21st century problem: prosopographies, now-obscure collections of biographical sketches of prominent men and women. Wikipedia’s gender imbalance reflects the site’s contributors, who are about 90 percent male, but it is also a result of its “notability” standard, says Michelle Moravec, a historian at Rosemont College. Under the rule, Wikipedia subjects need to have received “significant coverage” in published sources, historically a high bar for women. “Notability is not a neutral concept,” Moravac…