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Historical events of the 20th century included 20th century warfare (WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, etc.), assassinations (JFK 1963), and in 1979 militant Muslims overtook Iran. A horrible massacre took place in Tiananmen Square (Bejing) in 1989. Sometimes these events are taken as the most memorable of the 20th century topics. Surely they are memorable and significant events of the 20th century, yet this article is focusing on outstanding events that had revolutionary ripples and illustrious after effects.

The Gdansk shipyards in Poland had a worker named Lech Walesa. He was an electrician who definitely electrified the labor union that created Solidarity, and the end of Soviet rule in Poland. Vaclav Havel, a dissident Czech playwright was a true leader of the velvet revolution in Prague.The successful strike in Warsaw happened in 1980, and in 1989 swept away the Communist domination in Poland, Romania, Germany, and Czechoslavokia!

The really visual symbol of the Communist breakdown was the horrid 28 mile abomination known as the Berlin Wall. I recall viewing the tear down on television, and visiting the local art museum when pieces of the Berlin Wall were touring this country!

20th Century Computers - The Information Revolution
Mid century left the industrial revolution to clunky computers representing the information age. IBM installed a mainframe (the 702) in the home office of Monsanto, and Remington Rand delivered its first Univac (Universal Automatic Computer 1) to the U.S. Census Bureau. The consoles were huge and bulky, but they led the way for most American offices to have mainframes by the 1960’s.

Then Apple released the Apple 11 personal computer in 1977, and the information revolution began. A young company called Microsoft ran the operating system for IBM, but IBM hadn’t secured the rights from the MS-DOS company. Gates and Allen (top dogs for Microsoft) sold to IBM’s competitors, and eventually ruled the industry.

Yet to come was the common use of the Internet, and online services. Needless to say, it spread like wildfire, and then Netscape offered public shares, and now we are a wired society for sure!

Fast Food
Two brothers had a chain of drive-in restaurants (Richard and Maurice McDonald) that Ray Kroc bought the franchise rights to, and the United States was off and running in the fast food franchising world.

In 1954, Ray Kroc had traveled to the McDonald’s in San Bernadino, California as a salesman for Multimixers (milkshake mixers). He hoped to sell the brothers some more. Lucky for him to find out that the brother’s informed him that they were looking for a nationwide franchiser. He liked the idea, and went with it. He opened his first McDonald’s in Illinois, in 1955, and the sales totaled $366.12! Wow.

A & W was the first franchising fast food operation, in 1921. The name is the initials of the two partners, Frank Wright and Roy Allen (A & W). It began with root beer, and new franchises popped up around the world. The Yum! Brands, Inc. owner announced plans to sell A & W in January, 2011.

Women Lawfully Allowed to Vote!
It was too long in coming, that right to vote for women. In the 19th century pioneer feminists (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others) organized a convention, the Seneca falls Convention to publicly push for women’s rights. Susan B. Anthony later proved to be a dedicated advocate of suffrage (women’s right to vote), and she did help pave the way for the 19th Amendment to pass in 1920. The vote being allowed for women was only right and just, and it led to more firsts for women in the United States.

101 male judges served on the Supreme Court until Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Associate Justice in 1981. Thank you Ronald Reagan!

Three years later, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first female Vice Presidential candidate of a major party. Walter Mondale asked her to run with him. Although they lost, she remained active in politics, and working for equal rights for women.

Previous to Sandra and Geraldine was the NOW movement. The National Organization for Women took hold in 1966, as a lobby for women’s rights. Betty Friedan was among the founders, and the movement gained popularity when Gloria Steinem founded Ms., a magazine for the cause.

Sadly, the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) first proposed to congress in 1923, still has not passed. It is meant to affirm that men and women have equal rights under the law, and it is still not part of the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-eight states need to ratify it, and I think only 35 have.

Black Gold on the Rocks
The wreck of the Exxon Valdez, giant oil supertanker, was one of the worst environmental disasters ever. The ship was off course, the Coast Guard didn’t give any warning, and the damage began. Crude oil (around 11 million gallons) leaked into the unspoiled waters of Prince William Sound in Alaska. Over half a million birds and otters died from the oil mess in 1989.

Five years previous to the Valdez disaster, an estimated 6,000 people died in Bhopal, India when a deadly gas released from a Union Carbide pesticide plant.

Then, in 1986 the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine had a meltdown. An estimated 31 human deaths, and higher rates of cancer and birth defects in the area have been noted.

These 20th century ecological disasters definitely had after effects on the living population. A conscious awareness and greater laws protecting worker’s rights have been championed. The horrible consequences from the “accidents” actually allowed for the identification of many factors that could have been avoided. Now, some of those factors are required legally to be removed, maintained or whatever is for the greater good.

The King
Of all the famous people from the 20th century, Elvis is the king. He hit the airwaves with Heartbreak Hotel in 1956. His legacy is so strong, that there are still those who don’t believe he has died. His sexy stage presence drove parents of teen girls crazy. Too bad, he was an entertainer of the highest caliber, a top historical event, and he had the moves and voice to prove it. His style was called “Rockability,” a fusion of country, rhythm, and blues. He is considered to be one of the most important and popular cultural figures of the 20th century. Long live the king!

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