Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (December 5, 1822 – June 27, 1907)
Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz was an American educator, and the co-founder and first president of Radcliffe College. A researcher of natural history, she was a contributing author to many scientific published works with her husband, Louis Agassiz.
Elizabeth Cary was born into a Boston family of New England Ancestry. Because of her fragile health, she was tutored at home in Temple Place, Boston, which included the study of languages, drawing, music, and reading. She additionally received informal history lessons from Elizabeth Peabody.
Following the marriage of her sister Mary to Professor Cornelius Conway Felton, she began socializing with a group of intellectuals in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1849 she met scientist Louis Agassiz, a widower, who had recently emigrated with his three children from Switzerland to the United States. They married on April 25, 1850, in Boston, Massachusetts, at King’s Chapel.
She traveled with her husband for his professorship in the medical school and worked closely with him in his scientific research. In 1856 in their home in Cambridge, she founded a school for girls from Boston. Her husband supported her by giving courses as well as arranging for courses from other Harvard professors. After the closure of the school in 1863 she helped organize and manage the Thayer Expedition with her husband, who she accompanied to Brazil. In 1867, she began a correspondence with Arnold Guyot, a geologist and meteorologist. She also helped organize and manage the Hassler Expedition in 1871-1872, which was the first important U.S. government marine exploration, and made transcripts. After her husband’s death in 1873, she published several books on natural history for which she had conducted research for many years.
Agassiz contributed to the founding of the coeducational Anderson School of Natural History. She was one of the first women members of the American Philosophical Society. In 1879 she was one of seven female Managing Directors of the Society for the private Collegiate Instruction for Women (Harvard Annex). This provided qualified women who intended to pursue an advancement in their education in Cambridge with the opportunity to have private tuition from Professors at Harvard College. Agassiz was essential in ensuring that the “Harvard Annex” for women’s education was transformed in 1894 from Harvard University into Radcliffe College. From 1894 to 1900 this college was under their direction and from 1900 to 1903 she was honorary president.
Agassiz became a member of the Ladies’ Visiting Committee for the Kindergarten for the Blind, under the Perkins Institution for the Blind. She acted as treasurer for the Cambridge branch of the committee until an illness in 1904.
Christina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894)
Christina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. She is perhaps best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and for the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter (one of my all-time favorites).
In the bleak midwinter by Christina Rossetti
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day, Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay; Enough for Him, whom angels fall before, The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; But His mother only, in her maiden bliss, Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
On this day in history: 1955 – The Montgomery Bus Boycott began, lead by Rosa Parks and E.D. Nixon.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was sitting in the frontmost row for black people. When a Caucasian man boarded the bus, the bus driver told everyone in her row to move back. Parks, who had already received terrible treatment by this same bus driver years before and had vowed to never let him do that again, refused and was arrested. She had recently returned from attending a course in “Race Relations” at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee where non-violent civil disobedience had been discussed as a tactic, and was already employed as the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.
Her arrest was siezed upon as test case for furthering challenging existing racial segregation cases. E.D. Nixon, president of the local NAACP chapter, had been been waiting for the right person to be arrested. The movement needed a person who would anger the black community into action and who would agree to test the segregation laws in court. And someone who, most importantly, was “above reproach.” Rosa Parks was a good candidate because of her employment and marital status, along with her good standing in the community.
The boycott proved extremely effective, with enough riders lost to the city transit system to cause serious economic distress. The boycott officially ended December 20, 1956, after 381 days. The city passed an ordinance authorizing black bus passengers to sit virtually anywhere they chose on buses. The Montgomery Bus Boycott resounded far beyond the desegregation of public buses.
Jeanne Manford (December 4, 1920 – January 8, 2013)
Jeanne Manford was an American schoolteacher and activist. She co-founded the support group organization, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), for which she was awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.
In April 1972, Manford and her husband Jules were at home when they learned from a hospital’s telephone call that her son Morty, a gay activist, had been beaten while distributing flyers at a political gathering in New York City. Reports stated that Morty was “kicked and stomped” while being led away by police. In response, she wrote a letter of protest to the New York Post that identified herself as the mother of a gay protester and complained of police inaction.
On June 25, 1972 she participated with her son in the New York Pride March, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children”. At the time, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness and sodomy a crime, and California Senator Mark Leno has subsequently reflected that “[f]or her to step into the street to declare support for her mentally ill, outlaw son - that was no small act … But it was what a mother’s love does.” Manford recalled in a 1996 interview the cheers she received in the parade, and that the “young people were hugging me, kissing me, screaming, asking if I would talk to their parents … [as] few of them were out to their parents for fear of rejection.”
Prompted by this enthusiastic reception, Manford and her husband developed an idea for an organization of the parents of gays and lesbians that could be, she later said, “a bridge between the gay community and the heterosexual community”.
Christa Luding is a former speed skater and track cyclist. Before the German reunification, Luding competed for East Germany – afterwards for Germany. For more than 10 years, she was one of the world’s best sprinters in speed skating. At the World Sprint Championships in speed skating, she became World Champion twice (in 1985 and 1988), won silver twice (in 1986 and 1989), and won 4 bronze medals (in 1979, 1983, 1987, and 1992). She has also won the 500 m World Cup 3 times (in 1986, 1988, and 1989) and the 1,000 m World Cup once (in 1988).
In 1980, she was convinced by her coach to take up cycling during the off-season. Originally, she was told to stick to skating, but finally the president of the East German sports federation gave her permission to enter international cycling competitions. At the 1986 World Cycling Championships, she won track cycling gold in the women’s sprint and silver the following year. This made her the second woman (after Sheila Young) to become World Champion in both speed skating and cycling.
In 1988, she earned the distinction of being the only athlete to win Summer and Winter Olympic medals in the same year. It also made her the first woman, and the third athlete overall, to win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. At the Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada she won the gold medal in the 1,000 m speed skating event and silver in the 500 m. Seven months later, she won the silver medal in the (1,000 m) sprint in track cycling at the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Harriet Cohen CBE (2 December 1895 – 13 November 1967)
Harriet Cohen was a British pianist. She was born in London and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music under Tobias Matthay, having won the Ada Lewis scholarship at the age of 12. She made her debut at a Chappell’s Sunday concert at the Queen’s Hall a year later. Her first major appearance was in 1920 when she appeared at the Wigmore Hall in a joint recital with the tenor John Coates.
She became particularly associated with contemporary British music. A number of composers wrote music specifically for her, including John Ireland, Béla Bartók, Ernest Bloch and E. J. Moeran, and particularly Sir Arnold Bax, who wrote most of his piano pieces for her. He also composed Concertino for Left Hand for her after she lost the use of her right hand in 1948. The last six pieces in the collection Mikrokosmos by Bartók are dedicated to her.
She was Vice-President of the Women’s Freedom League, and was for several years associated with the Jewish National Fund and the Palestine Conservatoire of Music at Jerusalem. Cohen was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938. She died in London. The Harriet Cohen International Music Award was introduced in her honour in 1951.
Harriet Cohen had met Albert Einstein in Germany in 1929 when she had afternoon tea at his house. At the time Einstein disclosed that he played the violin and said that one day they should play together. Cohen kept her friendship with Einstein even after he had fled Germany in 1933. Cohen would often visit him in Oxford, England where he settled for a short time. In 1933 Harriet Cohen traveled to Vienna to play a number of concerts, staying with Dorothy Thompson. She was profoundly moved by the plight of refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were pouring into the city from Germany. In 1934, after Einstein moved to USA, Harriet Cohen did finally play that duet concert with him to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Nazi Germany. Cohen and Einstein remained friends thereafter and he referred to her as “the beloved piano witch”.