The secular view of the world holds that there is not provably anything spiritual or religious affecting the day-to-day. This is not necessarily an agnostic or atheistic viewpoint, but it is neutral, and it is effective as an underpinning of pluralistic or democratic societies. Our American Founding Fathers, most of whom were influenced by deism (which proposed that human reason, when applied to the glorious world in which we all live, might well imply a Creator, or God, but one that does not interfere with the laws of the universe and processes of man), saw the wisdom in separating Church from State, the spiritual from the secular. Let’s all live together, they said, and worship as we might.
The great Hebrew heroes include Moses and David. Muhammad is paramount for Muslims. Other religions in our melting pot anoint other figures. Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of God, arrived upon earth just over 2,000 years ago to redeem fallible man.
Let’s talk about Mary.
Not everyone needs a brother or sister or savior, or accepts that a savior has arrived historically or will do so one day. But everyone once had a mother. We all need the mother figure, and if any con- firmation of this basic fact is required, it lies in the great respect shown “Mary” or “Miriam” by other religions. Jesus does not necessarily figure as a vessel of salvation for Muslims and Jews, but He is held in high regard, and the young woman who gave birth to Him and raised Him is praised. Whoever she was, she must have been substantial, smart and strong. She must have been a fine mother.
LIFE’s special issue, Mary: Blessed Art Thou Among Women, includes journalistic writing and analysis by Robert Sullivan, a Roman Catholic whose “Meditation on Mary,” was a cover story that appeared in LIFE magazine in 1996 won the Wilbur Award as the best article on a religious topic published in the United States in the previous year.
The issue also tells the Mary story in images. There were no cameras back then, and even with the possibility of miracles, finding photographs of Mary is a challenge, but a fun challenge. And in the past century and a half, when cameras have indeed been on the job, the apparitions, pilgrimages and cults that have manifested in her name are many.
This depiction of the Annunciation is by an unknown French artist from the 14th century.
This depiction of the Annunciation is by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli is from the 1500s and hangs in Naples’ Museo Nazionale Di Capodimonte.
A. Dagli Orti/DEA/De Agostini/Getty
Children at The Virgin’s well at Nazareth, 1926.
The Print Collector/Hulton/Getty
The Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, is believed to be the burial site of the Virgin Mary.
Dmitri Kessel/LIFE/The Picture Collection
The ancient city of Ephesus, in Greece, is where Mary may have spent her last days.
The house of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, photographed in 2001.
The tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Dmitri Kessel/LIFE/The Picture Collection
The Church of the Assumption in Jerusalem.
Dmitri Kessel/LIFE/The Picture Collection
Christmas day in Bethlehem, Israel, 1955.
Dmitri Kessel/LIFE/The Picture Collection
Faithfuls gathered during a candle light vigil at the Our Lady of Fatima shrine, in Fatima, Portugal on May 12, 2014. Every year on May 12 and 13, thousands of Catholic pilgrims arrive to Fatima Sanctuary to attend masses and pray in honor of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed she was witnessed by three shepherd children in 1917.
The flowers were remarkable. In the hours and days after the death of the Princess of Wales, mourners from all over the United Kingdom streamed to the gates of Buckingham Palace, to St. James’s Palace, to Kensington Palace to lay bouquets in tribute to the woman known just as Diana. There were so many flowers—more than one million—that in descriptions, only metaphors from nature about their emotional struggles in the wake of seemed to suffice: a sea of flowers, waves of them, a mountain. There were also poems, letters and teddy bears, and once the shock of Diana’s death subsided, it took three days for London to remove the symbols of heartbreak.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a now famous speech in the rain outside of his church, remembered the part of the wider world, not sequestered from it: “People everywhere, not just here in Britain, kept faith with Princess Diana. They liked her, they loved her, they regarded her as one of the people. She was the People’s Princess and that is how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and our memories for ever.”
It has been 25 years since Diana’s death but never has the legacy of this remarkable woman been more relevant to the house of Windsor. A family once defined by its chilly reserve is now praised for its candor (at least sometimes) and willingness to break with tradition (ditto). Prince William and Prince Harry have in recent years spoken movingly about their emotional struggles in the wake of their mother’s death. William took as his wife a commoner, Kate Middleton, the woman he loves, unlike his father, Prince Charles, who was compelled to marry out of duty to the crown. Later, Harry married Meghan, an American actress. Diana’s grandchildren are being raised as part of the wider world, not sequestered from it. Even Queen Elizabeth, whose relationship with her daughter-in-law was famously strained, has shown Diana’s influence in visits to AIDS clinics, a cause she reportedly discouraged Diana from supporting.
Naive, beautiful and sheltered, Diana could not have been a more unlikely agent of change for the British monarchy, the one to drag Buckingham Palace from the Victorian Era into the 20th and 21st centuries. She was born in a home on one of Queen Elizabeth’s country estates and raised in an ancient tradition that didn’t ask scholarship of its females but instead put a premium on them being proper and respectable—attractive catches for aristocratic young men. As she grew up, Lady Diana Spencer met expectations, and on paper, was the perfect match for Charles, the heir to the British throne. Their fairytale nuptials on July 29, 1981, were dubbed “The Wedding of the Century,” and they enchanted the world. But we know now the marriage was doomed before it was started and that 20-year-old Diana was ill-equipped for a husband who did not love her. She foundered and struggled and withdrew—but then emerged “The Mouse That Roared,” as Vanity Fair memorably put it, discovering a reserve of strength as well as a common touch that the ruling family lacked.
Diana learned to control the narrative and outshone her husband at every turn. She became both the fashionista with drop-dead backless dresses and the Good Mum running barefoot in the parents’ races during field days at her boys’ school. She could comfort a child whose leg had been lost to a land mine and hug an AIDS patient in an era when many, including the Windsors, feared such a gesture. Diana showed an intrinsic talent for connection, and she won the people’s love even as she evolved into a global superstar. The Windsors however misread the whole story. If they had only perceived in Diana’s public persona their new, best asset, rather than viewing her as a threat or an affront, they might have shared in the glow of her fame and charisma. Instead, they missed the point and missed their opportunity. Diana became the heroine, one who left an indelible imprint and won credit for modernizing an out-of-touch family.
The shift was evident in the years after her death, but was crystalized for the public during the 2011 wedding of William and Catherine Middleton. Following the reception at Buckingham Palace, the prince whisked his bride away in a dark blue convertible from Aston Martin, makers of James Bond’s favorite coupe. Thirty years earlier, Diana and Charles had been driven from the palace in an open-topped State Landau with footmen, like a scene out of Cinderella. Diana had always dreamed of being a princess. She had, as a girl, believed in fairy tales. But then as a woman, she rewrote the stories for her sons.
The following is adapted from the introduction to LIFE’s special issueThe Beatles.
FROM ALMOST THE MOMENT they broke up, 50 years ago this spring, the Beatles were rumored to be reuniting. In one tumultuous decade they had literally risen from obscurity, ascending from a Liverpool cellar to unprecedented heights of fame, making themselves indispensable to millions. And so, from the very beginning of the end, the world was trying to put the Beatles back together.
“My answer to the question, ‘Will the Beatles get together again?’ is no,” Paul McCartney wrote to the British music journal Melody Maker in the summer of 1970, mere months after news of their breakup had become official. The letter was an effort, in McCartney’s words, “to put out of its misery the limping dog of a news story which has been dragging itself across your pages.”
What a relief, then, that the Beatles never really left us, and have never ceased to be. Meet the Beatles! was the second Beatles album released in the United States, but it’s also what every generation has managed to do during the last half century: discover anew the music and the mythology of the Beatles. In 2018, McCartney’s album Egypt Station reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200. In 2019, Beatles songs were streamed nearly 2 billion times on Spotify. Why? The Beatles were the big bang that created much of modern youth culture—popular music, concerts, fashion, film, merchandising. “For me, and many others, the Beatles came as a welcome breath of fresh air,” said Stephen Hawking in 1992, speaking on the BBC when choosing Please Please Me as one of his Desert Island Discs. The physicist knew that a collapsing star creates a black hole. And while there were no greater stars than the Beatles, their collapse didn’t leave a void from which no light can escape. The Beatles defied physics and remain luminous. John Lennon sang it, five years after the Beatles broke up: “We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.” On and on, on and on.
Cover photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The Beatles arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York on February 7, 1964, for their first U.S. tour.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Beatles chatted with Ed Sullivan before their 1964 appearance on his television show.
Photo by Db/AP/Shutterstock
Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr sang in a cool Florida swimming pool at the behest of a photographer, 1964.
John Loengard/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images .
Beatles fans in New York City foiled the efforts of police on horseback to block them from seeing the band by going up to Central Park and then swarming back against traffic toward the Plaza Hotel, 1964.
Judd Mehlman/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images
In 1964 Liverpool extended an embrace to its now-famous sons; after being greeted by 3,000 fans at the airport, The Beatles were driven to Liverpool Town Hall in a police cavalcade, with an estimated 200,000 people lining the route, and the band members were each presented with a key to the city. That night they attended the charity premiere of “A Hard Day’s NIght.”
Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium, New York on August 15, 1965; the 12-song set opened with “Twist and Shout” and concluded with “I’m Down.”
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Beatles appeared at the press launch for their landmark album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at manager Brian Epstein’s house in London, May 19, 1967.
Photo by John Downing/Getty Images
The Beatles arrived in Athens, Greece on July 22, 1967; Paul McCartney walked with girlfriend and actress Jane Ashre while holding the hand of John Lennon’s son Julian.
In March 1969 newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a two-week-long bed-in for peace at a hotel in Amsterdam.
Photo by Denis Cameron/Shutterstock
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sang at the ‘Sound Action’ Earth Day Concert on April 16, 1993.
Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
Musicians performed onstage with new inductee Ringo Starr during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The following is from the introduction to the special issue, LIFE: A Story of America in 100 Photographs, which is available here.
A great photograph tells not one story but many, through what it plainly reveals and what it suggests. And great photographers—like great artists, writers, carpenters, farmers, clergy, all—see beyond the limitations of their talent, beyond their resources, to something more. “Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential,” the LIFE photojournalist W. Eugene Smith once observed. “Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.”
Two of Smith’s photographs (Country Doctor, Burning Cross) appear in LIFE, A Story of America in 100 Photographs. Dozens of the others were taken by his colleagues and peers. Indeed, all of the photos in this story have appeared in the magazine or book or website pages of LIFE, which has long been a chronicler of American life. The images trace back to 1850 (soon after the dawn of photography itself, and shortly before the United States was solidified into the Union (as we know it now) and continue, with gorgeous and colorful aplomb, into the 21st century. They are delivered here throughout the decades, each image augmented by a body of text, a story in words and facts meant to add context and understanding, meant to illuminate more than to guide.
If a single photo—and the sentences nestled beside it—carries so many strands of meaning, then so does a collection of photos, bearing a narrative that is at once available in discreet pieces and as a whole. This collection. This narrative. The U.S. flag adds a 49th star. Moving trucks fill suburban driveways. Route 66 invites travelers west. Disneyland opens. John F. Kennedy and wife Jacqueline attend his inaugural ball. Marines in Vietnam carry off wounded comrades. A busboy kneels by the fallen Robert F. Kennedy.
It has been said that you don’t take a photograph, you simply borrow it, nabbing a bit of history, adding those hints of possibility, so as to stand, looking forward or back, on the threshold.
Shirley Temple celebrated her eighth birthday at 20th Century Fox in 1936, when, in the middle of the Great Depression, she was the biggest box office star in America.
Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Tears streamed down the cheeks of accordion-playing Chief Petty Officer (USN) Graham Jackson as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s flag-draped funeral train left Warm Springs, Ga., April 13, 1945
Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
As America began its move westward, Route 66, here shown in Seligman, Arizona in 1947, took on a special romance for those who yearned to strike out for adventure.
Andreas Feininger The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Dr. Ernest Ceriani made a house call on foot, Kremmling, Colo., 1948. The generalist was the lone physician serving a Rocky Mountain enclave that covered 400 square miles.
W. Eugene Smith/Life Pictures/Getty Images
Truck driver Robert Nuher and his family gathered around the television in 1949, at a time when screens first invaded the American living room. A new station had just debuted in the Nuhers’ hometown of Erie, Pa.
Five years after the end of World War II, American soldiers were fighting again, the time in Korea. Here Marine Capt. Francis “Ike” Fenton pondered his fate and the fate of his men after being told that his company was nearly out of ammunition, 1950.
David Douglas Duncan/The LIFE Picture Collection
The Golden Gate Bridge, likely the most photographed in the world, was captured from the vantage point of a helicopter in 1951, fourteen years after its opening.
Margaret Bourke-White/Life Pictures/Getty Images
In the years following World War II, Americans flocked to the suburbs. Here moving trucks arrived at a new planned community in Lakewood, Calif. in 1952.
Disneyland opened in 1955 in Anaheim, Calif. Built on what had been 160 acres orange groves and walnut trees, Disneyland wasn’t the world’s first theme park, but it quickly became the standard by which others would be measured.
Billie Holiday, a singular jazz vocalist known for recordings of such songs as “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child,” performed at one of the late night jazz sessions hosted by LIFE photographer Gjon Mili. Holiday, raised partly in a Baltimore brothel and partly in a home for troubled girls, endured childhood sexual abuse and later became addicted to alcohol and heroin, before dying at age 44, in 1959.
President John F. Kennedy, after beginning his presidency with a speech that declared “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” celebrated with his wife Jacqueline at his Inaugural Ball.
U.S. Marines carried their wounded during a firefight near the southern edge of the DMZ, Vietnam, October 1966. Photographer Larry Burrows, whose images brought home to LIFE readers in full color the horrors taking place in Vietnam’s lush countryside, was killed along with three other photographers when their helicopter was shot down over Laos in 1971.
Larry Burrows/Life Pictures/Getty Images
Football’s escalation in the American consciousness took a great leap forward in 1967, when Bart Starr led the Green Bay Packers to a win over the Kansas City Chiefs at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the first Super Bowl.
The 60s were defined by three assassinations: President John F. Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther Kind, and Senator Robert Kennedy, who in 1968 was making his own run at president. After winning the California primary and giving a victory speech at L.A.’s Ambassador hotel, RFK was fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan. Seventeen-year-old busboy Juan Romero, who had just shaken Kennedy’s hand, registered the shock of a nation.
One morning, some years ago when I was living in New York City, I gathered Kaya into an old blue shawl and carried him eight blocks to the animal clinic to be put to sleep. He had been my cat since I was in the ninth grade. I named him after the Bob Marley album. “Nineteen years is a long time for a domestic short hair,” the vet said, stroking him.
Kaya still had a little life in him at the end. On the walk over to the clinic he batted at my chin from inside his wrap. I talked to him matter-of-factly, telling him about a recent CNN/New York Times poll that had voted him one of the seven best cats in the Northeast. I often told him things like this over the years: my version of coochy-coochy-coo.
Kaya always tolerated the stuff about the polls, though he must have known he wasn’t all that. Not compared to his brother Korduroy, anyway. Korduroy did things you’d tell people about. He would stand in the road near the STOP sign, for example, and when a car pulled up, he’d jump on the hood and peer into the windshield. Kaya would watch this impassively, and he also looked on when Korduroy engaged in elaborate play-fighting games with the neighbor’s German shepherd. Next to Korduroy, a skilled small-game hunter who knocked on our front door by putting a paw into the mail-slot, Kaya seemed a simpleton.
He was docile and deliberate and he purred a lot. He didn’t much go for killing things but he got into sudden, spirited battles with ball-point pens and dangling extension cords. He had white mittens on his front paws, white knee-length stockings on his hind legs, and soft snowy fur around his muzzle, neck, and breast. Otherwise he was cloaked in a hodgepodge of blacks and browns. He had wide, yellow-green eyes. He lay down a lot.
Among me and my immediate family we’ve had maybe a dozen cats over the years—not including the eight kittens that once roamed my parents’ house after Palaleela had her litter—and there is no question that in matters of decency and kindness Kaya was the best of the lot. He let Korduroy eat first. He put up with two-year-olds who tugged his tail. He kept you company. Many cats are keen to human suffering, but none was keener than Kaya. When someone was sad, Kaya always came around. “Mow,” he’d say, and look up at you.
good, simple things: being brushed with a fine comb, warm chicken scraps, a
scratch behind the ears, weekends on the Cape, a place to sleep at the foot of
the bed. How often do we celebrate the life of a cat?
Maybe it was because he didn’t know any tricks that in the last few years of his life, Kaya began to talk. He mewed incessantly. His most common issuance was a loud, plaintive wail that sounded more like a human baby than any animal I’ve heard. “Dude, you’ve got a kid over there?” friends would say during phone conversations. My professional acquaintances knew him too. I’d be interviewing someone, and when Kaya’s voice filled the phone lines I’d sense the person on the other end ignoring it uncomfortably. “I know,” I’d say to Kaya afterward, “it can be hard to be a cat.”
Kaya delivered other
sounds besides that trademark yowl. He had a two-beat high-pitched me-ow for
when he was playing happily or anticipating food. He gave a short, chirplike
mew as a greeting when he walked into a room. His long trilling mew meant he
wanted to go out. A low, guttural “reowwl” said he was encountering another
cat. An airy half-mew, half-yawn meant he was waking up, and Kaya’s odd,
unnerving series of yips told you he sensed a thunderstorm on its way. Whatever
Kaya’s agenda, the only sure way to quiet him was to take him onto your lap.
The mewing became a backdrop to my life that did not fade until the very end. When I made the appointment at the clinic, Kaya had been sick for several weeks. Thyroid condition. He slept nearly all the time and he couldn’t keep his medicine down. He stopped jumping up onto the bed at night. He kept to a corner of the apartment, venturing out every few hours to stare into his water dish and take a few half-hearted laps. When his mewing died down, a strange silence settled upon the apartment. Around that time he stopped eating.
It got to me, of course. I tried to tempt him with his favorite foods. Friends came over to tell Kaya good-bye. The night before we went to the clinic I was sitting on the couch—quiet, glum, and staring off. I guess Kaya could tell I was in a rotten way. I looked down when I felt him rubbing weakly against my shins. He peered up at me. “Mow,” he said, and then he slumped back over to the corner to rest.
The next morning I
carried him in the crook of my arm. I talked to him as if nothing were wrong.
At the clinic I set him on a table in a small greenish room and stroked him
until I could feel a faint purr in his breast. The vet was there too, and Kaya,
with what seemed like great effort, gave a final, soft meow.
His life was gentle, I tell people, and you could have learned from him.
Brownie drank milk straight from the cow as Blackie waited his turn at a dairy farm in Fresno, Calif., in 1953.
Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
It looks like this dog, cat and mouse were considering acting out the food chain, but this was in fact a friendly gathering of the household pets of the Lyng family in Denmark, 1955.
Jytte Bjerregaard Muller/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
This Siamese cat escaped up a pole in Carlsbad, N.M. in 1962, and hoped the cocker spaniel in pursuit would obey the sign.
Sometimes cats and dogs do get along.
Chris Swanda/EyeEm/Getty Images
Diana wrote in her diary at the desk in her sitting room in Kensington Palace.
Oscar, a hospice cat, who had an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients were going to die, walked past an activity room at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I. David Dosa profiled Oscar in his 2011 book, “Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.
Scarlett the cat, whose eyes were singed shut after saving her kittens during a building fire, snuggled with her new owner, writer Karen Wellen in 1997; Scarlett’s eyes healed.
Taro Yamasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
The pattern is sickeningly familiar. A new and deadly strain of flu emerges in Asia, then spreads across the world and comes to the United States. A pandemic is declared.
In 2020 the world was shaken by COVID-19, which began infecting people in Wuhan, China in late December 2019 and spread to exert its deadly touch in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
In 1957 the new virus was first reported in Singapore, in February of that year, and then worked its way to Hong Kong. In June the disease had made its way to America.
In its Sept. 2, 1957 issue, LIFE reported on the race to develop a vaccine against this flu before the arrival of fall, which would make people more prone to respiratory illnesses: “For the first time in its history the U.S. has had full warning that it faces a major new epidemic.”
LIFE in that issue declared that “the government has launched the fastest medical mobilization ever attempted against an epidemic disease,” and the race for the cure began that April 1957, when forward-looking researchers from Walter Reed first began to work on developing a vaccine. The first of the photos here, which accompanied the Sept. 2 story, documented the fascinating process by which the vaccine was created, with the isolated virus being injected into an egg. After the virus multiplied inside the shell, the embryonic fluid was drawn out, the virus was killed, and the treated fluid was used as the vaccine.
The first batches of the vaccine were released while the weather was still warm, in late August and early September. The vaccine was produced quickly, but not enough to cover the entire population, and nor was it 100 percent effective. Unlike today with COVID-19, there was no mass quarantine or sheltering in place. As kids headed back to school, the number of flu patients began to multiply. In the Nov. 18 issue of LIFE, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney predicted that “the epidemic will get worse in the next six weeks, and then decrease.”
Burney was correct, to a point. While this flu seemed to abate after Thanksgiving, it proved resurgent, and cases spiked again in early 1958. By the end, according to CDC statistics, the pandemic was tied to 110,000 deaths in the United States, and 1.1 million around the world.
Flu research was conducted at Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
Dr. Maurice Hillman of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research acquired flu specimens from Japan on April 18, before anyone in the U.S. was infected, and by May 18, his team had the virus isolated. He then gave the virus to six drug firms to develop a vaccine.
Creating the flu vaccine involved injecting the virus into eggs, where it multiplied. The virus-laden embryonic fluid was then siphoned out, and the virus was killed. That purified fluid became the vaccine. In this photo Jeff Cesarone at the Merck Sharp and Dohme plant in West Point, Pa.,explained the process.