The headline writer for this 1933 Frida Kahlo article would undoubtedly like a do-over

Though she's been dead for nearly 70 years, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is famous around the world. She is best known for her colorful self-portraits, her bold artistic statements involving pain and passion, and her feminist activism. She is more easily recognizable than most visual artists, thanks to her own face being her main subject matter and the unibrow that served as her most prominent identifying feature. She is, in fact, arguably more well-known than her mural artist husband, Diego Rivera, who is famous in his own right.

That has not always been the case, however.

Diego Rivera was one of the most well-known artists of the early 20th century, his large-scale murals launching a revival of fresco painting in Latin America. He earned a place in a prestigious art academy in Mexico at age 10, went on to study in Spain, then settled for more than a decade in Paris. Rivera was friends with Pablo Picasso, and he lived in the U.S. for a handful of years. He painted some of his huge murals here, for the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1931, the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1932, and Rockefeller Center in New York City in 1933.

While Rivera was a household name in the 1920s and 30s, Kahlo was not, despite being a prolific artist. In fact, the headline of a 1933 Detroit News article highlighting Kahlo's artistic endeavors referred to her simply as "wife of the master mural painter," patronizingly describing how she "gleefully dabbles in works of art." In hindsight, oof.



The article itself is far more gracious towards Kahlo—perhaps in part because it was written by a female writer, Florence Davies. (It's highly likely that the headline was written by an editor, not Davies herself.)

Davies asked Kahlo if her husband had taught her to paint. "'No, I didn't study with Diego," Kahlo replied. "I didn't study with anyone. I just started to paint.'" Kahlo got a twinkle in her eye before adding, "'Of course, he does pretty well for a little boy, but it is I who am the big artist.'" Then she exploded into laughter.

Neither Davies nor the world knew how seriously true her words would become, though Davies did describe Kahlo's formidable talent in glowing terms.

"Senora Rivera's painting is by no means a joke," Davies wrote, "because, however much she may laugh when you ask her about it, the fact remains that she has acquired a very skillful and beautiful style, painting in the small with miniature-like technique, which is as far removed from the heroic figures of Rivera as could well be imagined."

That Kahlo made a name for herself as an artist in her own right, especially in the time period in which she lived, is a testament to both her style and her spirit. Her personal story, too, is one for the ages. She was badly injured in a bus accident as a teenager and endured 35 surgeries in her short 47 years. She was married to Rivera twice—a tumultuous that was rife with infidelity. She wrote dramatic love letters and indulged heavily in drugs and alcohol. It's hard not to be curious about such an intriguing life.

However, it's her meteoric rise in popularity since the 1970s that has made Kahlo into a household name. Her star of fame may have emerged more gradually than Rivera's, but it's proven to have outshone his.

Indeed, her "dabbling" was actually the creation of a massive body of artistic work that most of us can recognize on sight. Undoubtedly that headline writer would be embarrassed now to have written about one of the world's most famous female artists in such quaint, condescending terms. Especially when the more common question now is "Who was Diego Rivera?" with the answer being "Frida Kahlo's husband. He was also a famous artist."


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less