Venus Williams wins Wimbledon for the first time

Year
2000
Month Day
July 09

On July 9, 2000, Venus Williams wins at Wimbledon for the first time. Her victory over defending champion, Lindsay Davenport, made Williams the first black female Wimbledon champion since Althea Gibson won back-to-back titles in 1957 and 1958. 

Overcoming a tough childhood in Compton, California, Williams became a champion women’s tennis player with seven Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and four Olympic gold medals. Williams and her sister Serena are considered two of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Williams was born on June 17, 1980, in Lynwood, California. Her father, a self-taught tennis coach, trained his daughters on the local courts. When Williams was 10 years old, the family relocated to West Palm Beach, Florida so Venus and Serena could attend a tennis academy.

By the age of 10, Williams’ serve topped off at an impressive 100 miles per hour. Thanks to that serve and athletic prowess on the court, Williams was 63-0 on the United States Tennis Association junior tour.

On October 31, 1994, Williams turned pro at 14 years old. In 1997, she became the first woman since Pam Shriver in 1978 to reach the final of her first U.S. Open. In 1998, she won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open. A year later, she won the French Open women’s doubles tournament with her sister.

When Williams won at Wimbledon in 2000, she said, “It’s really great because I’ve been working so hard all my life to be here… It’s strange. I’d go to bed at night and I’d dream I’d won a Grand Slam, but when I woke up, there was the nightmare. Now, I don’t have to wake up like that anymore.” 

That same year she went on to win the U.S. Open, two gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney and signed a $40 million sponsorship deal with Reebok.

In 2011, Williams revealed she was battling Sjögren syndrome, a chronic, incurable immune system disorder. Many expected her to take a step back from tennis. Instead, she went on to win gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon.

READ MORE: Trailblazing Black Women in Sports 

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Catherine the Great assumes power

Year
1762
Month Day
July 09

On July 9, 1762, the wife of Russia’s new emperor, Peter III, rallies the army regiments of St. Petersburg against her husband and is proclaimed Empress Catherine II, the sole ruler of Russia.

More commonly known as Catherine the Great, she would stay on the throne for the next 34 years, longer than any other female ruler in Russian history.

The former Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst was born in 1729 in what is now Poland. Her father was a minor Prussian prince; her mother was a member of the house of Holstein-Gottorp, one of Germany’s most celebrated families. At 15, Sophie scored an invitation to Russia from Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, who was searching for a bride for her nephew and chosen heir to the throne, the Grand Duke Peter, who was also Sophie’s cousin on her mother’s side. They were married the following year, and Sophie converted to Orthodox Christianity, adopting the name Catherine.

READ MORE: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Catherine the Great

Peter and Catherine’s marriage was unhappy from the beginning, and neither one was faithful. Catherine later hinted in her memoirs that her husband hadn’t fathered any of her four children, but most historians believe he did father her first son, Paul, born in 1754.

Soon after the Empress Elizabeth died and Peter ascended to the throne in early 1762, his many enemies plotted to overthrow Peter and replace him with 7-year-old Paul. Instead, the ambitious Catherine acted quickly to seize the advantage for herself. With the help of her lover, Gregory Orlov, she won the military’s support and had herself proclaimed Russia’s sole ruler in July 1762, forcing her husband to abdicate his throne. Peter was assassinated just eight days later by Catherine’s supporters, casting some doubt on her legitimacy as ruler.

Despite this turbulent beginning, Catherine’s reign would be remembered as a time of significant progress and achievement for Russia. Like Peter the Great, she worked to Westernize the nation and make it strong enough to hold its own against the great powers of Europe. Under Catherine, Russia’s borders expanded to the west and south, encompassing Crimea as well as much of Poland. 

Notorious for her many lovers, Catherine showed less affection for her son, Paul, whom she supposedly considered passing over as heir in favor of his son, Alexander. But before she could do so, Catherine died of a stroke in 1796, leaving Paul to inherit the throne. He was assassinated five years later, opening the way for Catherine’s adored grandson, Alexander I, to become the next ruler in the Romanov dynasty

READ MORE: Why Catherine the Great’s Enemies Turned Her into a Sex Fiend

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Soviet Premier Khrushchev and President Eisenhower trade threats over Cuba

Year
1960
Month Day
July 09

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev trade verbal threats over the future of Cuba. In the following years, Cuba became a dangerous focus in the Cold War competition between the United States and Russia.

In January 1959, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the long-time dictator Fulgencio Batista. Although the United States recognized the new Castro regime, many members of the Eisenhower administration harbored deep suspicions concerning the political orientation of the charismatic new Cuban leader. For his part, Castro was careful to avoid concretely defining his political beliefs during his first months in power. 

READ MORE: Cold War

Castro’s actions, however, soon convinced U.S. officials that he was moving to establish a communist regime in Cuba. Castro pushed through land reform that hit hard at U.S. investors, expelled the U.S. military missions to Cuba, and, in early 1960, announced that Cuba would trade its sugar to Russia in exchange for oil. In March 1960, Eisenhower gave the CIA the go-ahead to arm and train a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime. It was in this atmosphere that Eisenhower and Khrushchev engaged in some verbal sparring in July 1960.

Khrushchev fired the first shots during a speech in Moscow. He warned that the Soviet Union was prepared to use its missiles to protect Cuba from U.S. intervention. “One should not forget,” the Soviet leader declared, “that now the United States is no longer at an unreachable distance from the Soviet Union as it was before.” He charged that the United States was “plotting insidious and criminal steps” against Cuba. 

In a statement issued to the press, Eisenhower responded to Khrushchev’s speech, warning that the United States would not countenance the “establishment of a regime dominated by international communism in the Western Hemisphere.” The Soviet Premier’s threat of retaliation demonstrated “the clear intention to establish Cuba in a role serving Soviet purposes in this hemisphere.”

The relationship between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly after the Eisenhower-Khrushchev exchange. The Castro regime accelerated its program of expropriating American-owned property. In response, the Eisenhower administration severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1960. 

A little more than a year later, in April 1961, the CIA-trained force of Cuban refugees launched an assault on Cuba in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. The invaders were killed or captured, the Castro government cemented its control in Cuba, and the Soviet Union became Cuba’s main source of economic and military assistance.

READ MORE: Communism Timeline 

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Bob Dylan records “Blowin’ In The Wind”

Year
1962
Month Day
July 09

“This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ’cause I don’t write no protest songs.” That was how Bob Dylan introduced one of the most eloquent protest songs ever written when he first performed it publicly. It was the spring of his first full year in New York City, and he was onstage at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, talking about a song he claims to have written in just 10 minutes: “Blowin’ In The Wind.” A few weeks later, on July 9, 1962, Dylan walked into a studio and recorded the song that would make him a star.

Dylan’s recording of “Blowin’ In The Wind” would first be released nearly a full year later, on his breakthrough album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This was not the version of the song that most people would first hear, however. That honor went to the cover version by Peter, Paul and Mary—a version that not only became a smash hit on the pop charts, but also transformed what Dylan would later call “just another song” into the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.

“Blowin’ In The Wind” bore little or no resemblance to the highly topical, highly literal protest songs of the day, but that may have been precisely what made it so effective as a protest song. A lyric like “How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?” lends itself perfectly to those seeking racial justice, just as “How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand?” does to those seeking peace. The moving, vaguely spiritual, clearly dissatisfied, yet ultimately ambiguous nature of “Blowin’ In the Wind” made it the quintessential protest song of the 1960s—”A song that the times seemed to call forth,” in the words of critic Greil Marcus.

It also represented a significant breakthrough for Bob Dylan as a songwriter. From “Blowin’ In The Wind” onward, Dylan’s songs would reflect a far more personal and poetic approach to self-expression—an approach that would lead him away from songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and toward songs like “Like A Rolling Stone.” And Dylan’s development as a songwriter would, in turn, have a similar effect on The Beatles, whose own move from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “A Day In The Life” can be traced directly to their exposure to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in the spring of 1964.

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Romanov remains identified using DNA

Year
1993
Month Day
July 09

British forensic scientists announce that they have positively identified the remains of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II; his wife, Czarina Alexandra; and three of their daughters. The scientists used mitochondria DNA fingerprinting to identify the bones, which had been excavated from a mass grave near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

On the night of July 16, 1918, three centuries of the Romanov dynasty came to an end when Bolshevik troops executed Nicholas and his family. The details of the execution and the location of their final resting place remained a Soviet secret for more than six decades. Lacking physical evidence, rumors spread through Europe in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, telling of a Romanov child, usually the youngest daughter, Anastasia, who had survived the carnage. In the 1920s, there were several claimants to the title of Grand Duchess Anastasia. The most convincing was Anna Anderson, who turned up in Berlin in 1922 claiming to be Anastasia. In 1968, Anderson emigrated to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she died in 1984.

READ MORE: The Romanov Family Tree: Real Descendants and Wannabes

In 1991, Russian amateur investigators, using a recently released government report on the Romanov execution, found what they thought to be the Romanov burial site. Russian authorities exhumed human remains. Scientists studied the skulls, claiming that Anastasia’s was among those found, but the Russian findings were not conclusive. To prove that the remains were indisputably those of the Romanovs, the Russians enlisted the aid of British DNA experts.

First, the scientists tested for gender and identified five females and four males among the remains. Next they tested to see how, if at all, these people were related. A father and mother were identified, along with three daughters. The four other remains were likely those of servants. The son Alexei and one daughter were missing.

To prove the identity of Alexandra and her children, the scientists took blood from Prince Philip, the consort of Queen Elizabeth II and the grand nephew of Alexandra. Because they all share a common maternal ancestor, they would all share mitochondria DNA, which is passed almost unchanged from mother to children. The comparison between the mtDNA in Philip’s blood and in the remains was positive, proving them to be the Romanovs. To prove the czar’s identity, who did not share this mtDNA, the remains of Grand Duke George, the brother of Nicholas, were exhumed. A comparison of their mtDNA proved their relationship.

READ MORE: Why Czar Nicholas II and the Romanovs Were Murdered

The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, adding fuel to the persistent legend that Anastasia had survived execution. Was it possible that Anastasia had escaped and resurfaced as Anna Anderson? 

In 1994, American and English scientists attempted to answer this question once and for all. Using a tissue sample of Anderson’s recovered from a Virginia hospital, the English team compared her mtDNA with that of the Romanovs. Simultaneously, an American team compared the mtDNA found in a strand of her hair. Both teams came to the same decisive conclusion: Anna Anderson was not a Romanov. In 1995, a Russian government commission studying the remains presented what it claimed was proof that one of the skeletons was in fact Anastasia’s, and that the missing Romanov daughter was, in fact, Maria.

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First female army officer is appointed

Year
1947
Month Day
July 09

In a ceremony held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, General Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Florence Blanchfield to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold permanent military rank.

A member of the Army Nurse Corps since 1917, Blanchfield secured her commission following the passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947 by Congress. Blanchfield had served as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and was instrumental in securing passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act, which was advocated by Representative Frances Payne Bolton. In 1951, Blanchfield received the Florence Nightingale Award from the International Red Cross. In 1978, a U.S. Army hospital in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was named in her honor.

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Wimbledon tournament begins

Year
1877
Month Day
July 09

On July 9, 1877, the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club begins its first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon, then an outer-suburb of London. Twenty-one amateurs showed up to compete in the Gentlemen’s Singles tournament, the only event at the first Wimbledon. The winner was to take home a 25-guinea trophy.

Tennis has its origins in a 13th-century French handball game called jeu de paume, or “game of the palm,” from which developed an indoor racket-and-ball game called real, or “royal,” tennis. Real tennis grew into lawn tennis, which was played outside on grass and enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 19th century.

In 1868, the All England Club was established on four acres of meadowland outside London. The club was originally founded to promote croquet, another lawn sport, but the growing popularity of tennis led it to incorporate tennis lawns into its facilities. In 1877, the All England Club published an announcement in the weekly sporting magazine The Field that read: “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose [sic] to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9, and following days. Entrance fee, one pound, one shilling.”

The All English Club purchased a 25-guinea trophy and drew up formal rules for tennis. It decided on a rectangular court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide; adapted the real tennis method of scoring based on a clock face—i.e., 15, 30, 40, game; established that the first to win six games wins a set; and allowed the server one fault. These decisions, largely the work of club member Dr. Henry Jones, remain part of the modern rules.

Twenty-two men registered for the tournament, but only 21 showed up on July 9 for its first day. The 11 survivors were reduced to six the next day, and then to three. Semifinals were held on July 12, but then the tournament was suspended to leave the London sporting scene free for the Eton vs. Harrow cricket match played on Friday and Saturday. The final was scheduled for Monday, July 16, but, in what would become a common occurrence in future Wimbledon tournaments, the match was rained out.

It was rescheduled for July 19, and on that day some 200 spectators paid a shilling each to see William Marshall, a Cambridge tennis “Blue,” battle W. Spencer Gore, an Old Harrovian racket player. In a final that lasted only 48 minutes, the 27-year-old Gore dominated with his strong volleying game, crushing Marshall, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. At the second Wimbledon in 1878, however, Gore lost his title when his net-heavy game fell prey to an innovative stroke developed by challenger Frank Hadow: the lob.

In 1884, the Lady’s Singles was introduced at Wimbledon, and Maud Watson won the first championship. That year, the national men’s doubles championship was also played at Wimbledon for the first time after several years at Oxford. Mixed doubles and women’s doubles were inaugurated in 1913. By the early 1900s, Wimbledon had graduated from all-England to all-world status, and in 1922 the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, as it was then known, moved to a large stadium on Church Road. In the 1950s, many tennis stars turned professional while Wimbledon struggled to remain an amateur tournament. However, in 1968 Wimbledon welcomed the pros and quickly regained its status as the world’s top tennis tournament.

The Wimbledon Championships, the only major tennis event still played on grass, is held annually in late June and early July.

READ MORE: The Wimbledon Finalist Who Committed Murder

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United States turns over responsibility for the DMZ

Year
1971
Month Day
July 09

Four miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), about 500 U.S. troops of the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division turn over Fire Base Charlie 2 to Saigon troops, completing the transfer of defense responsibilities for the border area. On the previous day, nearby Fire Base Alpha 4 had been turned over to the South Vietnamese. This was part of President Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, which had been announced at a June 1969 conference at Midway Island. Under this program, the United States initiated a comprehensive effort to increase the combat capabilities of the South Vietnamese armed forces. As the South Vietnamese became more capable, responsibility for the fighting was gradually transferred from U.S. forces. Concurrent with this effort, there was a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.

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President Zachary Taylor dies unexpectedly

Year
1850
Month Day
July 09

On July 9, 1850, after only 16 months in office, President Zachary Taylor dies after a brief illness. The exact cause of his death is still disputed by some historians.

On a scorching Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., Taylor attended festivities at the newly dedicated grounds upon which the Washington Monument would be erected. According to several sources, Taylor gulped down a large quantity of cherries and iced milk and then returned to the White House, where he quenched his thirst with several glasses of water.

Outbreaks of cholera, a deadly disease caused by bacteria, occurred frequently during the summer months in hot, humid Washington during the 1800s, when sewage systems were primitive at best. The bacteria were mostly likely present in the water or iced milk Taylor drank, though other sources have claimed that Taylor died of gastroenteritis caused by the highly acidic cherries combined with fresh milk. Others suspected food poisoning or typhoid fever. It appears no one suggested foul play even though Taylor, a Mexican War hero, opposed secession and vowed to personally lead a military attack against any state that threatened to secede from the Union.

Taylor died on the evening of July 9, after four days of suffering from symptoms that included severe cramping, diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. His personal physicians concluded that he had succumbed to cholera morbus, a bacterial infection of the small intestine. His vice president, Millard Fillmore, was sworn in as the new president the next day.

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U.S. takes San Francisco from Mexico

Year
1846
Month Day
July 09

An American naval captain occupies the small settlement of Yerba Buena, a site that will later be renamed San Francisco.

Surprisingly, Europeans did not discover the spectacular San Francisco Bay until 1769, although several explorers had sailed by it in earlier centuries. When Spanish explorers finally found the bay in that year, they immediately recognized its strategic value. In 1776, the Spanish built a military post on the tip of the San Francisco peninsula and founded the mission of San Francisco de Asis (the Spanish name for Saint Francis of Assisi) nearby.

The most northern outpost of the Spanish, and later Mexican, empire in America, the tiny settlement remained relatively insignificant for several decades. However, the potential of the magnificent harbor did not escape the attention of other nations. In 1835, the British Captain William Richardson established a private settlement on the shore of Yerba Buena Cove, several miles to the east of the Mexican mission. That same year the U.S. government offered to purchase the bay, but the Mexicans declined to sell.

In retrospect, the Mexicans should have sold while they still had the chance. A little more than a decade later, a dispute between the U.S. and Mexico over western Texas led to war. Shortly after the Mexican War began, U.S. Captain John Montgomery sailed his warship into San Francisco Bay, anchoring just off the settlement of Yerba Buena. On this day in 1846, Montgomery led a party of marines and sailors ashore. They met no resistance and claimed the settlement for the United States, raising the American flag in the central plaza.

The following year, the Americans renamed the village San Francisco. When the Mexicans formally ceded California to the United States in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe, San Francisco was still a small town with perhaps 900 occupants. That same year, however, gold was discovered at the nearby Sutter’s Fort. San Francisco became the gateway for a massive gold rush, and by 1852, the town was home to more than 36,000.

READ MORE: 8 Things You May Not Know About the California Gold Rush

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