Today in History · Women in History

Women in History: April 1st


Born on this day in…

1776 – Sophie Germain (d. 1831) was a French mathematician, philosopher, and physicist. Given the time in which she lived, Ms. Germain was forbidden from pursuing a career as a mathematician by virtue of her gender. She obtained books from her father’s library and educated herself accordingly. After writing an essay on the elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Academy of Sciences.

1866 – Ève Lavallière (d. 1929) was a French stage actress who eventually joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Since her parents already had a son, her parents weren’t very invested in their daughter and she was packed off to school. Later in life she had a radical religious conversion as a Catholic and served as a medical missionary in Tunisia.

1885 – Clementine Churchill (d. 1977) was the wife of the infamous Sir Winston Churchill and a British noblewoman. During her youth she was known to be lively and to have great intelligence, immediately attracting the attention of the up-and-coming Winston Churchill. The couple was known to have had a strong marriage. There were rumors that Ms. Churchill had an extramarital affair with Terence Philip. On the other hand, she was said to have defended her husband when he was insulted by others.

1893 – Cicely Courtneidge (d. 1980) was an English actress, singer, and comedian. She began her debut at the age of 16, acting in her father’s plays where she started with minor roles but moved quickly on to major roles. When her father suffered from failures and quit producing, she turned to the music hall where she honed her craft as a comedian. In the days of World War II, she performed for the armed forces and raised funds for the troops.

1895 – Alberta Hunter (d. 1984) was an internationally recognized African American jazz singer and songwriter whose popularity soared during the 1920’s to the 1950’s. In 1919, she married Willard Saxby Townsend but the marriage only lasted a few months as she was determined to keep her career. During her life, she spent 20 years working as a nurse.

Died on this day in…

1204 – Eleanor of Aquitaine (b. 1122) was Queen Consort of England and France. During the High Middle Ages, she was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women. When her eldest son Richard I of England was away on the Third Crusade, she acted as regent of England.

1441 – Blanche I of Navarre (b. 1387) and was the Queen Regnant after the death of her father, King Charles III. After her first husband, Martin of Sicily passed away, Bernardo Cabrera attempted to abduct her to force her to marry Nicolas Peralta of the Sicilian Royal House. Her second marriage was to John II of Aragon and they had four children.

1865 – Giuditta Pasta (b. 1797) was an Italian soprano who was one of the most illustrious singers of her time. Susan Rutherford said of her:

Her career began in 1815 and spanned a little more than twenty-five years: during its middle period, from 1822 to 1836, she was the acknowledged diva del mondo. But it isn’t merely fame that makes Pasta interesting:… Pasta’s singularity is measured rather by the tone and extent of the debates her celebrity provoked, by her influence on the operatic stage, and by the timing of her career at the transition from Rossinian opera to the works of Bellini and Donizetti (with all the stylistic ramifications this implied). No other singer during that period attracted as much intellectual discussion, or was regarded as of such significance in the articulation of theories around operatic practices. For such reasons alone, Pasta is deserving of critical attention.

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