Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On This Day

I love the Writer's Almanac. While it can be heard daily on NPR, I usually miss that brief broadcast, so a while back, I signed up for daily emails. Now, I get a dose of poetry and a reminder of some noteworthy event or birthday each day.

Yesterday, for example, I learned that July 19, 1848 was the day that the first women's rights convention was convened in Seneca Falls, New York. While women in the U.S. at that time did not have the right to vote, could not serve on juries, were barred from most institutions of higher learning, generally could not work outside the home, and in most things were entirely bound by their husbands in any decision, the Seneca Falls convention is regarded as the beginning of the women's "liberation" movement.

On the same day, but centuries earlier, in 1692, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were hanged for witchcraft. While the Salem witch trials have been much debated in history, one thing emerges with clarity--too many of the victims were women who had been marginalized in early colonial life in Salem.

See why I like the almanac? How else might I have known about the serendipitous confluence of the opening of the first women's right convention and the Salem witch trials? The shared date provides an occasion to contemplate an aspect of society: the role of women in society. True, there is no other link other than the date between these events. Yet, in content, there is a connection.

One of the assignments that I have used with my students in writing involves me telling them a story. I tell them that on February 13, 1945, Allied planes took off bound for Germany. Their mission was to bomb Dresden, which up to that point in the war had escaped being bombed. By the time the bombing raids were done, two days later, Dresden had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Some 1,300 bombers took part in the bombing, 3,900 tons of bombs were dropped, 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) lay in ruins destroyed by the fire storm caused by the bombing, and some 25,000 people were killed.

About this point in my retelling, I pause and ask students why I am telling them this story. I never get the actual answer. The reason, I tell them, is because that day--February 13, 1945--is also the exact day on which I was born.

Now, I tell them, your writing assignment is to do some research and find out what IMPORTANT historical event occurred on the day you were born. Hmmm--it's always an interesting assignment. Some students get into it completely; others root out some rock star event and ask if that is "important" enough. Um, no.

So, why on this day? Well, not of earth-shaking significance, I grant you, but 4 years ago, I wrote my first blog. I'll give it another whirl for a year.

Cheers, all!
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Painting of Witch Hill by Thomas Slatterwhite Noble, and photo of bombed Dresden from Wikipedia. Both are under the Creative Commons reproduction license.

9 comments:

Ruth said...

A cheer for each blogging year. I always enjoy reading your posts.

troutbirder said...

Congratulations on 4 years. I' on my 3rd and still enjoying it. Frequency is a little less often. Being original is getting harder but still fun.
btw - My birthday July 16, 1945 saw the first A bomb tested at Almogordo N.M. What surprises people is the Dresden bombing was even more destructive by "conventional" means. Sad

Donna Henderson said...

Yes, I love the Writer's Almanac, too. In fact I listen to NPR a lot, It's where I get my news, and "This American Life" is my No. 1 favorite show. Thank you, Donna, for sitting a spell on my back porch this afternoon and leaving such a kind comment. Made my day, girl fren'. I was born in Meadville, PA, and grew up in Milledgeville, which is even smller than Cochranton, where I went to school. Anywhere near you? I miss it sometimes, especially in October.

Jayne said...

Happy Blogiversary my friend! I so enjoy my stops here to read your intelligent perspective on things. :c)

NCmountainwoman said...

Definitely a significant day and I am celebrating for you. I'm looking forward to reading another year of posts.

Anvilcloud said...

Happy fourth. I didn't realize that the woman's movement began that early -- 1848.

possumlady said...

Happy Blogiversary!! I'm so glad you started your blog. Always interesting and thought provoking.

I, too, love the Writer's Almanac, but since they moved it to the all news NPR station as opposed to the Classical music/NPR station I listen to, it has dropped off my radar. It was always on around 6:35 am and listening to Garrison Keilor's soothing voice was a wonderful way to wake up.

Ginnie said...

I'm glad you're part of the blogging world and hope that you'll stick around for many more years to come.
I like the idea of comparing my birthdate with world events. You've challenged me. Thanks.

Nance said...

Please, please do give it another year, at least! I just found you and I couldn't be more pleased. I followed the bread crumb trail over from Merrilymarylee's blog; she has such good taste.

Taking a look your profile, I note that you list Peace Like A River among your favorite books. I've never encountered that on another blogger's list--pleased yet again. Can't wait to read LeHane's new one. That era, my grandparents' youth, tugs at me for the history that's both general and intensely personal (my grandfather's health destroyed by the Spanish influenza, as one example; a reality that affected the lives of his family, but also an entire community).

I'll be following from both of my sites, the better to share your work with more readers. Thank you for quality.