Born on this day in…
1687 – Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (d. 1757) was Queen Consort of Prussia and wife of King Frederick William I. She was the mother of Frederick II of Prussia and sister to George II of Great Britain. Sophia and Frederick were known to have a difficult marriage, the two of them being clearly incompatible. Frederick was known to be rather cruel to Sophia, often forbidding her to become involved in politics. Although she was no beauty, Sophia had a taste for gambling, fashion, literature, art, and science. Her nickname was “Olympia” because she comported herself regally.
1873 – Dorothea Bleek (d. 1948) was a South African-born German anthropologist and philologist who conducted studies on Bushmen. Although overshadowed by her father and aunt, Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd, her greatest contribution to anthropology was A Bushman Dictionary which she published and it is still utilized today.
1888 – Elsa Brändström (d. 1948) was a Swedish nurse and philanthropist. She was known to many as “the Angel of Siberia.” During her time as a nurse during the First World War, she tended to German and Austrian prisoners of war. After the October Revolution, her work permit was not renewed and she had to sneak back into Siberia numerous times. At one point she was sentenced to death.
1894 – Viorica Ursuleac (d. 1985) was a Romanian soprano in the twentieth century. Richard Strauss considered Ms. Ursuleac his favorite soprano and he said of her, “die treueste aller Treuen” (“the most faithful of all the faithful”). She was given the title of Kammersängerin from Austria 1934 and Prussia in 1935. Hildegard Ranczak, a fellow soprano said about her, “Although she had a lovely, facile top, I was constantly amazed at the two hours’ vocalizing she went through before each performance. Hers was, in my opinion, a marvelously constructed, not really natural voice which she used with uncanny intelligence.”
1907 – Mahadevi Varma (d. 1987) was a foremost Hindi poet, freedom fighter, woman’s activist, and educationist. Within the Chhayavaad generation (which lasted from 1914 to 1938 and focused on romanticism in Modern Hindi poetry), Ms. Varma was a major figure and her prose is unique within itself. She functioned as a Principal and later Vice Chancellor of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, a women’s college in Allahabad. She received four awards during her lifetime.
Died on this day in…
1324 – Marie of Luxembourg, Queen of France (b. 1304) was of the house of Luxembourg and second wife of Charles IV of France. While traveling to Avignon to visit the Pope, a pregnant Marie fell out of the bottom of the carriage and miscarried a boy who died not long after. She followed the premature son in death.
1326 – Alessandra Giliani (b. 1307) was an Italian scientist and the first female to practice anatomy and pathology. Given the attitude towards women at that time, it is believed that Alessandra Giliani was a fictional figure invented by Alessandro Machiavelli (1693-1766). Others allege that Giliani’s role has been diminished due to convention and religious sentiment.
1923 – Sarah Bernhardt (b. 1844) was a French stage and early film actress. She was known as “the most famous actress the world has ever known” and nicknamed “Divine Sarah.” Her rise to stardom began in the 1870’s and she was celebrated in the Americas as well as Europe.