This Week in History — Week of March 28

Marcela Montufar Soria, Multimedia Editor

March 28, 1913: Japanese artist Toko Shinoda was born.

Born in Manchuria, China, to a Japanese family and raised in Gifu, Japan, Shinoda acquired a passion for art when she was very young. She started studying calligraphy at age six and made a living as an acclaimed calligrapher in the early stages of her career. After World War II, she gained international popularity and managed to travel to New York City, where she connected with artists of the Abstract Expressionism movement. When she returned to Japan, she began to blend traditional calligraphy with Expressionism. Shinoda went on to become a beloved and renowned artist, with her work being displayed in galleries and museums worldwide. She died on March 1, 2021, at age 107.

March 29, 1974: The Terracotta Army of the first emperor of China was discovered by farmers in Shaanxi, China.

The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is located in Xi’an, Shaanxi province of China. It was discovered in 1974 by a group of Chinese farmers digging a well. The Qin Dynasty lasted from 221 to 206 B.C.E, and its capital was Xianyang, located in the Shaanxi province of China. The dynasty was founded by Qin Shuangdi, the first emperor of a unified China and the first Chinese ruler to label himself “emperor” instead of “king,” and ended with his death. He utilized a harsh legalist system of collective responsibility, rewards for good behavior and merciless punishment for bad behavior to unify the warring states and keep them under his control. His tomb took 38 years to build, and it is the largest in China. Its defining feature is the 8000 terracotta soldier army located in the burial pits as a force to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

March 30, 1432: Ottoman sultan “Mehmed the Conqueror” was born.

Mehmed II was the fourth son of Ottoman Sultan Murad II, ascending to the throne upon his father’s death on Feb. 18, 1451. During his reign, he led military campaigns that greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire’s territory. His greatest victory was his capture of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, after a 55-day-long siege. Constantinople was the Christian capital of the Byzantine Empire, named after Emperor Constantine. The city was eventually renamed Istanbul and was forcibly repopulated by Mehmed II to transform it into a multicultural center. Afterward, Mehmed took on the title of Kayser-i Rum or Roman Caesar. Istanbul is the capital city of modern-day Turkey.

March 31, 1927: Mexican-American activist leader Cesar Estrada Chavez was born. 

Born to a family of migrant farm workers in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez dedicated his life to “la causa.” Employing non-violent resistance tactics, Chavez fought to improve the work and living conditions of impoverished farm workers in the United States. He founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) alongside fellow activist Dolores Huerta in 1962. In 1965, the NFWA launched a strike against California’s grape growers, ending in 1970 after the workers received a pay increase and gained the right to unionize. The NFWA was renamed the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) in 1971 after it merged with the Filipino-American labor organization Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) in 1966. It continues to protect workers’ rights today. Chavez died at age 66 on April 23, 1993, and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

April 1, 2001: The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage

The Dutch House of Representatives approved the bill legalizing same-sex marriages in the Netherlands in September 2000 and it was then approved by the Senate in December of that year. The law also allowed same-sex couples to adopt children and was enacted on April 1, 2001. As of 2023, same-sex marriage is legally permitted in 34 countries and territories, including the United States. 

April 2, 1917: Jeanette Rankin began her congressional term as the first woman elected to federal office in the U.S.

Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, near Missoula, Montana. A member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and a pacifist, she was elected into the House of Representatives as a Republican representative for Montana. During her campaign, she reiterated her support for women’s suffrage and pledged against voting for American involvement in the First World War. She was sworn in on April 2, 1917, following a month-long congressional debate about a woman’s ability to be a representative. She was prevented from gaining reelection by saboteurs in the Montana legislature that assigned her to a majority Democratic district. Rankin then ran for Senator but was not elected. She ran for the House of Representatives again in 1940 and was elected. She was the only representative to vote against the entry of the United States into the Second World War and, due to her consequential unpopularity, did not seek re-election in 1942.  

April 3, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, to a middle-class family in Atlanta, Georgia. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, becoming a Baptist preacher. He received a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. As one of the leading figures of the American Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, he dedicated his life to the fight for Black American rights and the end of racial segregation. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King delivered his final speech on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, in support of a group of striking sanitation workers, speaking of a Promised Land where there was peace and equality. He was assassinated the following day at 39 years old. 

April 4, 1975: Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded the Microsoft Corporation. 

Childhood friends Gates and Allen founded the Microsoft Corporation in 1975, originally named Micro-Soft for microprocessors and software. Gates dropped out of Harvard University, and Allen quit his programming job to focus on the company, which produced software for the Altair 8800 computer. Allen left the company in 1983 due to health concerns, and Microsoft went public in 1987 and made Gates the world’s youngest billionaire at 31. Microsoft’s Windows operating system was released in 1985 and is the world’s most widely used computer opening system today.