I have a friend, a fellow historian, whose hand-eye coordination is so poor that he can not participate adequately in any sport. It was painful even to watch him attempt to hit a plastic ball with a plastic bat for the entertainment of his five-year-old who would quickly shoot him a "just give me the bat, Daddy" look. But even my neurologically challenged friend, scholar that he is, generously acknowledges that there is more to sports than sports—that sports, in fact, are embedded in an ever-changing society and function not only as a sociological barometer but also as a catalyst of social change.
The cover of this issue of the Register and the article by Sallie Powell, "Playing Fairly and Fiercely," on the early days of Kentucky high school girls' basketball provide powerful evidence for sports as a societal catalyst. She demonstrates that there is indeed more to sports than sports. These committed young women, their sponsors, and coaches created a culture of achievement, a women's sphere of successful independence, not only in basketball but in life itself, It certainly seems reasonable to suppose that longitudinal studies would show a correlation between participation of young women in sports, particularly in this early period, and their later success in leadership roles.
Jason Emerson's poignant essay "A Medal for Mrs. Lincoln" focuses on Mary Todd Lincoln in widowhood. The medal, which was "the only tangible public tribute of sympathy Mary Lincoln ever received as a result of her widowhood," was presented to her in 1867 by nineteen of the "most eminent republican reformers in Imperial France." Some forty thousand French citizens contributed [End Page 153] to the creation of the medal as a result of a "two sous subscription" campaign. Mary Lincoln cherished the medal; it was certainly a high point in her difficult widowhood. It was cherished as well by her son Robert and his widow who gave it to the Library of Congress where it is now part of the Lincoln Collection.
What was intended as an expression of sympathy for Mrs. Lincoln was also a tacit rebuke by French reformers to the authoritarian Second Empire of Louis Napoleon. It is interesting to note that a similar pattern was repeated on a larger scale with the gift of August Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty to the United States in 1886. The statue was first conceived by Édouard René de Laboulaye in the aftermath of the catastrophic Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) both as an expression of admiration for the American democracy, which had passed through the perils of the Civil War, and as an effort to shift French public opinion in a democratic direction. The entire United States, not only one person, has reason to be grateful to France for the iconic statue of "Liberty Enlightening the World"—a statue which might not ever have been created without Abraham Lincoln's indispensable leadership during the fiery trial of the Civil War. [End Page 154]