TIME People

The Not-So-Romantic Story of the First-Ever Woman of the Year

edward's abdication
From the Dec. 21, 1936, issue of TIME TIME

Dec. 11, 1936: King Edward VIII abdicates the throne to marry an American divorcee

The most famous love story ever to scandalize the British Monarchy was, in the end, perhaps not quite as romantic as it seemed. Still, no one could deny the sacrifice King Edward VIII made on this day, Dec. 11, in 1936, when he announced to England that he had abdicated the throne to follow his heart.

“You must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love,” he told his subjects in a radio address the day he became the first monarch in British history to give up the crown voluntarily. (As head of the Church of England, he wouldn’t have been able to marry a woman who was, as TIME phrased it, “a lady with a past.”)

He was demoted to Duke of Windsor and fled Britain almost immediately to join the woman he loved — Wallis Simpson, or “that woman” to Royal Family relatives who scorned the twice-divorced American — in an unofficial exile in France.

But as a romantic gesture, abdication was a tough act to follow.

The shine may have worn off after the couple settled into a quiet daily life away from the pomp and responsibilities of nation-ruling. Or it may have worn off before that: Even while Britain was in uproar over the King’s choice of consort, Simpson told Edward she wanted out. He persuaded her to stay with him.

By some accounts, he did so by threatening to kill himself if she left — then shaming her into marriage by naming her as the reason for his abdication. In That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, Anne Sebba makes the case that Simpson was still in love with her second husband, whom she had never intended to leave for the King. And she was made miserable by the hostility of the British royal subjects, who wrote mounds of threatening letters and called her “a prostitute, a Yankee harlot, and worse,” according to Sebba.

It wasn’t all bad press, however. While TIME calls Simpson a “citrus-tongued siren” in her 1986 obituary, it also notes that she was “fawned over by fashion designers for her ‘perfect elegance.’ ” And TIME named her the “Woman of the Year” for 1936 based partly on her notoriety, making her the woman in the history of the magazine’s Man of the Year franchise. As the story explained:

In the single year 1936 she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world. In these respects no woman in history has ever equaled Mrs. Simpson, for no press or radio existed to spread the world news they made.

One can only imagine how much more interest she would have compelled — or how many more sordid details of her messy royal affair would have emerged — in the digital age.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the abdication, here in the archives: Prince Edward

TIME politics

The War on Leggings Gets Political

A new dress code for the Montana Legislature forbids leggings and sparks controversy

Students across the country have been protesting school dress codes that they say slut-shame young girls. Now politicians are doing the same.

Critics are saying the new dress code for the 2015 Montana Legislature (which applies to lawmakers, reporters and staff) is too strict on women. The guidelines say no leggings, no open-toed sandals, and no casual dress even on weekends. The memo to staffers also noted that women should be “sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.

“That phrase is right out of the 19th century as far as I’m concerned,” incoming House Minority Whip Jenny Eck told the Missoulian. “Women can be trusted to get up in the morning and dress appropriately. How would it be enforced? Would the sergeant of arms be the clothes police checking our skirt lengths and cleavage?”

The argument is similar to the one made by middle and high school girls who are told by their teachers that items like leggings are “too distracting.” Dress codes tend to demand that girls cover up, rather than teaching boys (or in the case of the legislature, men) learn to not ogle women. The rules, as one teen in Illinois argued, are “giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do.”

MORE: When Enforcing School Dress Code Turns Into Slut-Shaming


TIME Education

Malala Says She Hopes to Become Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai attends a press conference on Dec. 9, 2014 at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo ahead of the ceremony to present her with the award.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai attends a press conference on Dec. 9, 2014 at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo ahead of the ceremony to present her with the award. Odd Andersen—AFP/Getty Images

The 17-year old shot by the Taliban: "I want to serve my country"

She’s still a teenager but Malala Yousafzai has already survived a brutal attack by the Taliban, served as a global champion of girls’ education and become the youngest Nobel Laureate in history. Yet the young Pakistani activist, who is in Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, told the BBC that she still hopes to achieve much more and even become Prime Minister of Pakistan one day.

“I want to serve my country and this is my dream that my country becomes a developed country and I see every child get an education,” the 17-year-old activist said in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday. She said she was inspired by Pakistan’s first female prime minister — Benazir Bhutto, who served two terms before she was assassinated in 2007. “If I can serve my country best through politics and through becoming a prime minister then I would definitely choose that.”

MORE: Meet the guests of Malala joining her as she receives the Nobel Peace Prize

Malala became an international household name in October 2012 when she was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin while riding in a school bus. She was attacked for her advocacy of girls’ education before the shooting and since recovering from the attack has gone on to champion girls’ education and girls’ rights around the globe.


TIME technology

Here are Twitter’s Top 10 Political Moments of 2014

A picture taken on October 23, 2012 shows the screen of a blackberry phone featuring a page with the adress of the micro-blogging site Twitter website. FRED TANNEAU—AFP/Getty Images

Remember #TurnipForWhat?

From inside jokes to political movements, it’s been a busy year on Twitter.

With 2014 drawing to a close, the popular micro-blogging service released its top 10 political moments early Wednesday to coincide with a broader look-back on the last 12 months.


In February, Secretary of State John Kerry re-joined Twitter, a year after his confirmation to the role.

In June, the Central Intelligence Agency joined the service with a message that would be the most retweeted government/political tweet of the year, according to Twitter.


According to Twitter, the @FLOTUS tweet is her most RT’d tweet ever and generated 9 million impressions and 4 million embedded Tweet impressions. There were 4.5 million tweets with the hashtag in 2014.


Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby used Twitter for the first time ever to announce the beginning of military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.


According to Twitter, more than 4 million tweets mentioned the disease in 2014, and one spreading the facts about how the disease spreads was the most-RT’d tweet from the @WhiteHouse account

Remembering 9/11

For the second year in a row, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer live-tweeted his experiences on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 this year, drawing thousands of retweets.


President Barack Obama’s decision to wear a tan suit to a press conference discussing his strategy to combat ISIS becomes instant fodder for Twitter mockery.


The former Secretary of State responds to a late night hosts’s Halloween costume.


Lawmakers’ tweets marked the World Cup and other 2014 sporting events.


Photos from space captivated social media this year, with NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman’s inaugural vine from space being played more than 9 million times in 2014.


First Lady Michelle Obama’s PSA for healthy eating scored more than 36 million loops.

TIME politics

Watch President Obama Take Over ‘The Word’ on The Colbert Report

It's hilarious

The Colbert Report
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Colbert Report on Facebook

President Barack Obama got a lot of laughs Monday night when he hosted Stephen Colbert’s popular segment “The Word” on The Colbert Report.

Re-branding “The Word” as “The Decree,” the commander-in-chief launched into a health care-themed monologue, while words and phrases making fun of him and his opponents appeared on the right side of the screen.

For example, when he said, “There are things that people from both parties actually like about Obamacare,” the phrase “Everything but the ‘Obama'” showed up. Memorable asides gave hypothetical health care plans designed by Republican congressional leaders new names like “Fracking the elderly?” and “Walk-It-Off.gov.”

But the President cracked up the crowd the most when he said, “Young people don’t watch real news shows like this one. They watch comedy shows, and I just don’t see the President going on one of those. They’re beneath his dignity,” while the phrase, “but above his approval rating” flashed across the screen.

Afterwards, Obama sat down with Colbert, and you can read more about that interview here.

MORE: Watch Zach Galifianakis Interview Barack Obama on Between Two Ferns

Read next: President Obama Gets Personal With Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report

TIME politics

Read the TIME Story That ‘Concerned’ the CIA on Torture

A 2006 article by Ron Suskind is mentioned in the Senate Torture Report

About two hundred pages into the newly released summary of the Senate’s report on interrogation techniques used by the CIA, the fact-checking procedure for a Sept. 6, 2006, speech by President Bush is closely parsed. In the speech, Bush stated that the interrogation procedures in question had helped the CIA capture top terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, questions quickly arose over whether important information had actually come from interrogation, or if it had been found out through other methods.

One of the responses to the speech mentioned in the Senate Report is a 2006 TIME article, “The Unofficial Story of the al-Qaeda 14.” The CIA, the Report states, “was concerned about an article by Ron Suskind in Time Magazine that also challenged the assertions in the speech about the captures of Ramzi bin al-Shibh and KSM.” (Other TIME articles cited in the Senate report are a 2002 story about an attack in Bali and a 2011 interview with Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.)

The Suskind article, published shortly after Bush’s speech, questions the justifications and usefulness of torture — and, yes, questions the speech:

…Bush, in the East Room, did what has consistently landed him in trouble–take creative liberties with classified information. Specifically, he ran through a simplified progression of how each successful interrogation led to the next capture, another interrogation, another capture and so forth. He put special emphasis on Zubaydah–the insane travel agent–saying that, under duress, he gave interrogators information that identified Binalshibh and “helped lead” to the capture of both Binalshibh and the prized K.S.M. This is the sort of thing that has steadily eroded Bush’s relationship with the intelligence community: presidential sins of omission, or emphasis, that would be clear only if you happened to know lots of classified information. In fact, according to senior intelligence officials past and present, Zubaydah helpfully confirmed that “Mukhtar” was K.S.M.’s code name–something key intelligence officials already suspected–and had nothing to do with identifying Binalshibh, who had come to the attention of investigators a few weeks after 9/11 because he had sent wire transfers to Zacarias Moussaoui.

Read the full article, free of charge, here in TIME’s archives: The Unofficial Story of the al-Qaeda 14. Follow Suskind at www.ronsuskind.com and @RonSuskind.


Zimbabwe: President Mugabe Fires Vice President

Mugabe fired Mujuru and eight other Cabinet ministers with immediate effect

Harare, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe fired the country’s vice president, Joice Mujuru, on Tuesday.

Mugabe fired Mujuru and eight other Cabinet ministers with immediate effect, according to a statement released by the government.

“It had become evident that her conduct in the discharge of her duties had become inconsistent with the expected standard, exhibiting conflict between official responsibilities and private interests,” said the statement issued by the cabinet secretary, on behalf of Mugabe.

Mugabe recently accused Mujuru of plotting to assassinate him and branded her a witch. Mujuru and her allies were kicked out of their senior positions in the ruling party, Zanu-PF, at a meeting last weekend. The 90-year-old president said he would, however, allow them to retain ordinary membership of the party.

Mugabe has also accused Mujuru of holding secret meetings at the U.S. Embassy in Harare.

Mujuru has denied the claims, calling them “ridiculous” in her first public statement, released a day before she was fired.

“I have become the fly in a web of lies whose final objective is the destruction of Zanu-PF,” Mujuru said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mujuru, who has been a member of Mugabe’s cabinet since he became president in 1980, said no evidence has ever been brought against her.

Mujuru is the first vice president to be fired since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. Her four predecessors all died in office.

The ministers of energy, education, public service and social welfare, presidential affairs, communication and postal services are among the other members of Cabinet who were fired.

TIME politics

The Roots of the Torture Debate

Detainee 063 Cover
The June 20, 2005, cover of TIME Cover Credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MOORE / PHOTONICA

In 2005, TIME released a special report about interrogation techniques used by the U.S. Military

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have released a 500-page summary of an over-6,000-page report detailing the CIA’s interrogation programs during the George W. Bush Administration. The $40 million, five-year investigation concludes that the CIA “misled” the government and the public about the effectiveness of its so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, according to the Washington Post, and will rebuff claims that that the methods—which President Barack Obama has ended—were necessary in disrupting terrorist plots.

The debate over the effectiveness of torture in the War on Terror has been going on for years. In 2005, TIME detailed how the military interrogated Mohammed al-Qahtani, known by the public as the 20th hijacker and by Guantánamo Bay officials as Detainee 063. The article included excerpts of the secret interrogation logs of al-Qahtani from the winter of 2002 and 2003—exploring techniques like “Invasion of Space by a Female,” which leads al-Qahtani to ask his captors for a crayon to write a will after his suicide. The story also documents al-Qahtani’s 12-hour interrogation sessions, hunger strikes and heartbeat dropping to 35 beats per minute.

“The interrogation log gives a rare window into the techniques used by the U.S. military, suggesting at least in this case that disclosures were sometimes obtained not when al-Qahtani was under duress but when his handlers eased up on him,” wrote the article’s authors, Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy. “How should a democratic nation proceed when it captures a high-value prisoner like al-Qahtani, when unlocking a mind that might save lives? Experts acknowledge that brute torture generally doesn’t work because a person will say anything to stop the pain. So what, exactly, is effective? And when do the ends justify the means?”

“In the war on terrorism, the personal dignity of a fanatic trained for mass murder may be an inevitable casualty,” they added.

In 2006, al-Qahtani’s lawyer, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, told TIME that his client had repudiated all of his previous statements made to his interrogators, claiming that they were made under torture, and TIME released the entire record of al-Qahtani’s treatment. Al-Qahtani’s war crimes charges were dismissed in May 2008 and he remains at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, where he has been held for nearly 13 years. The 2005 cover story, Inside the interrogation of Detainee 063, and accompanying 84-page secret interrogation log can now be read for free here.

In recent days, Republicans and former CIA officials have shot back at the upcoming Senate Intelligence report. Jose A. Rodriguez, who ran the CIA’s interrogation program in the aftermath of 9/11, wrote in the Washington Post Friday that congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi—who has said the CIA lied to her about waterboarding—were properly briefed and that the program provided valuable intelligence about al Qaeda.

“The interrogation program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, judged legal by the Justice Department and proved effective by any reasonable standard,” he wrote. “The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and of both parties in Congress were briefed on the program more than 40 times between 2002 and 2009. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi tried to deny that she was told in 2002 that detainees had been waterboarded. That is simply not true. I was among those who briefed her.”

Read the full 2005 report, free of charge, here in the archives: Inside the Interrogation of Detainee 063

Read the interrogation log: Detainee 063

TIME politics

How the John Birch Society Was Founded

Robert Welch
Robert Welch Jr. on June 25, 1961 Bill Johnson—Denver Post Archive/Getty Images

Dec. 9, 1958: The right-wing John Birch Society is founded

Had his story ended when he retired as a candy-maker, Robert Welch Jr. might have made his mark on history as the father of the Sugar Daddy, Sugar Babies and Junior Mints. But Welch, whose shrewd leadership helped grow his brother’s Massachusetts candy business a hundred-fold from 1935 to 1956, shifted his aim from caramels to communists

On this day, Dec. 9, in 1958, Welch — then retired from the candy business — founded the ultraconservative John Birch Society along with 11 like-minded “Americanists,” as they referred to themselves. Their goal was to expose and eradicate the growing leftist threat in America, which they believed to be 40 to 60 percent communist-controlled, according to a 1961 TIME report. Members of the John Birch Society saw communists wherever they looked, from the Oval Office of Dwight Eisenhower (“A conscious agent of the communist conspiracy,” per Welch) to the Bay of Pigs (“a theatrical performance jointly sponsored by Castro and ‘his friends in the U.S. Government’ in order to strengthen the communist hold on Cuba,” as paraphrased in TIME).

Repeating his candy-industry success, Welch led the group to impressive growth, with an official membership of just under 100,000 (although most members’ names were kept secret) and an annual budget of $6 million by 1966, according to TIME.

His management style was described as dictatorial, and the tactics he required of the society’s “cells” were extreme. According to TIME, young members were trained to tell their cell leaders if a teacher exhibited any communist tendencies, so their parents could “belabor the offending teacher and his principal for apologies…” One cell began a telephone campaign “to warn homeowners that some of their neighbors were suspected Reds.”

In these tactics, at least, Welch emulated the society’s namesake, who had been dead for more than a decade when the group was formed. John Birch was an Army captain killed in China just after the end of World War II, making him, in Welch’s eyes, the first casualty of the Cold War.

Birch was remembered by classmates and professors at the Baptist college he attended in Georgia as an angry zealot who organized a secret society to rout out liberals. Per TIME, “He and twelve colleagues collected examples of ‘heresy’ uttered by faculty members (example: a reference to evolution), whipped up support among Georgia’s Baptist clergy, [and] finally forced the school to try five men on the charge.” Birch went on to become a missionary, then a military intelligence officer. On a routine mission from his base in North China following Japan’s surrender, Birch ran into a Communist contingent. After arguing bitterly with the Communist officer who wanted to disarm him, Birch was shot and killed.

However, Birch’s commanding officer, Major Gustav Krause, later said he had urged Birch and others to act with diplomacy in the delicate post-war environment. “Birch made the Communist lieutenant lose face before his own men,” Krause told TIME. “Militarily, John Birch brought about his own death.”

Read TIME’s full 1961 report on the John Birch Society, here in the archives: The Americanists

TIME White House

This Is What Ken Burns Neglected to Tell You About Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of 'THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS', circa 1947. Fotosearch / Getty Images

Ken Burns was right to include ER in his portrait of the Roosevelts. He just didn’t do her justice

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

International Human Rights Day (December 10) and the recent airing of the Ken Burns series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History have focused renewed attention on the life and work of Eleanor Roosevelt. While such interest is welcome and long overdue, the fact remains that Burns overlooked much of ER’s life and work in a series that purported to include her as an equal to her uncle Theodore and her husband Franklin.

As a savvy producer and consumer of television, ER would have been the first to appreciate Burns’s series on her family. She would have welcomed his interest in their lives and accomplishments but she would have been puzzled and dismayed at the amount of time devoted to her private life. She would have been particularly unhappy about the portrayal of the last seventeen years of her life (a mere 35 minutes in a fourteen-hour program). This period is a complete mystery to most Americans who usually associate ER with Franklin and assume that her role in American life ended with his death in 1945 or that her postwar life merely echoed his New Deal.

Neither of these statements is true. From 1945 until her death in 1962, ER took the ideas about community, inclusion and democracy that she, her husband, and uncle espoused, and pushed them much farther than Theodore or Franklin ever dreamed. However, because she usually exercised political power indirectly and often played down or obscured her own achievements, ER’s contributions are often overlooked and undervalued.

Nevertheless she left a voluminous record, and it is possible to tell the story of ER’s post-White House life in a compelling, coherent fashion because she based much of what she did on three key concepts: political courage, civic education and citizen engagement. In terms of political courage, ER’s postwar career coincided with the early years of the Cold War. Americans of that era feared communist incursion and nuclear attack. ER fought those politicians who preyed on those fears, speaking out against the ravages of McCarthyism at home and urging her fellow Americans to spend more time improving democracy and less time witch hunting. At a time when many Americans believed non-aligned countries like India were communistic, she was among the few to argue that befriending nations who refused membership in either the US or the Soviet camp would be smart politics.

When the US government sharply limited travel to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, she dared to visit Yugoslavia once and the Soviet Union twice. Her 1957 interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was front page news and carefully monitored by both the State Department and the FBI, neither of whom cared much for her views or her politics. In fact, ER’s progressive politics and insistence on freedom of speech and association made her a target of the FBI and its director J. Edgar Hoover. For almost forty years, beginning in 1924 when she supported the US’s entrance into the World Court and American participation in the League of Nations, the Bureau kept a file on her. At her death it ran to thousands of pages, much of which remains redacted.

Civic education for ER took many forms. Besides “My Day,” her syndicated newspaper column, which ran six days a week for more than twenty years, ER wrote 27 books and hundreds of magazine articles on topics ranging from Cold War politics to raising children. During her White House years alone she hosted six different sponsored radio programs of her own and appeared on countless others. In the last seventeen years of her life she hosted two additional radio programs and three public affairs television programs including one, “Prospects of Mankind,” that ran on the precursor to PBS.

ER’s view of citizen engagement was similarly expansive. On a partisan basis, citizen engagement meant doing all she could to shore up the liberal wing of the Democratic Party—everything from helping to found Americans for Democratic Action to mediating the fight between Democratic conservatives and Democratic liberals over the issue of civil rights at the 1956 Democratic convention. At the same time she continued to work with Republicans on issues of mutual concern.

Another important aspect of ER’s civic engagement philosophy was her support for American labor. ER did more than foster the labor movement, she actually joined it. In 1937, one year after she started writing “My Day,” she became a member of what is today the Newspaper Guild, AFL-CIO. Despite allegations that her membership implied communist affiliation, she remained a member for over twenty-five years. Indeed, her union card was in her wallet when she died. ER also numbered many union leaders among her personal friends. She was particularly close to United Auto Workers Union president Walter Reuther. Reuther and ER worked and relaxed together—staying at each other’s homes and befriending each other’s families.

During the postwar years, ER gradually became a strong supporter of public sector unions, and vigorously led an effort to defeat so called “right-to-work laws” in six states. She was a keynote speaker at the AFL-CIO merger convention in 1955, a merger she had championed for twenty years. When A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, asked her to join the National Farm Labor Advisory Committee in 1959, despite failing health she agreed. She attended meetings, wrote columns and testified before Congress on behalf of migrant farm workers.

As for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Burns rightfully noted ER’s centrality to its creation and passage, but failed to mention its significance to subsequent history. According to Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, author of a well-regarded book on ER and the UDHR, “the most impressive advances in human rights–the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the collapse of the Eastern European totalitarian regimes–owe more to the moral beacon of the Declaration than to the many covenants and treaties now in force.”

To the very end of her life, political courage, civic education and citizen engagement governed ER’s activities. Her last major undertaking, the chairmanship of President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, yielded a report in which the federal government documented for the first time the inequities women faced in the home and in the workplace. The report called for an end to discrimination in all walks of life and recommended family supports such as paid maternity leave and quality, affordable child care. It reinforced the importance of unions, and it challenged the United States to become a world leader in the struggle for human rights.

Clearly ER was a critical link between her uncle Theodore and her husband Franklin. She was also an integral part of Franklin’s presidency. Yet her own achievements were substantial, long-lasting, and it can be argued, critical to the lives of millions of people around the globe. Ken Burns was right to include ER in his portrait of the Roosevelts. He just didn’t do her justice.

Mary Jo Binker is one of the editors of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, a sponsored project of The George Washington University. Brigid O’Farrell is an affiliated scholar with the project and the author of “She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker.”

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