April 17


A day of freedom, and its obverse...


Four birthdates:


1885, Baroness Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Danish author ("Out of Africa")



1894, Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Premier


1897, Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright - see February 16


1916, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world's first woman Prime Minister...

which latter is no doubt true in the specific (Prime Minister), but somewhat disingenuous in the general (national leader)... to name but a few:

Hatshepsut, Pharaohess of Egypt in the 15th century BCE

Nefertiti a hundred years after her, and several Cleopatras later on

Sammuramat of Assyria in the 9th century BCE

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Isabelle of Castille

Queens Mary and Elizabeth of Tudor England (technically Queen Jane as well, but she only lasted nine days; technically Mary Queen of Scots as well, but she was powerless throughout her reign)

Catherine de Medici, Queen of France at the same epoch

Amina of Nigeria

Mbande Nzinga of Angola

Catherine the Great of Russia

Queen Victoria of course

Tzu-Hsi and Wu Zetian, both Empresses of China

Sorghaghtani Beki of Mongolia

Nur Jahan of India

Liliuokalani, the very last ruler of independent Hawaii

Queen Seondeok of Korea

the Trung sisters, precursors of Jeanne d'Arc, who led the Vietnamese to freedom from the Chinese in the 1st century CE...


Hai Bà Trưng - the Trung Sisters

and four events:


Sir Thomas More, English statesman and writer, imprisoned today in 1534


"Bay of Pigs" invasion, today in 1961 - see November 13


Zimbabwe became independent, today in 1980 (I have a note that Ian Smith became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia on April 13th 1964, but I don't plan to expand on that sad fact in this blog)


Queen Elizabeth gave Canada complete independence from Britain, today in 1982 (interestingly phrased! and absolutely questionable - I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Michaëlle Jean, the then Governor-General, at a Jewish community dinner in Toronto, and in making conversation I asked her, quite directly, about this: she smiled, very graciously, and changed the subject - yes, the word I want to use here is definitely "subject").


And lastly, and quite possibly my favourite recorded historic moment ever (yes, I know I've said this on several other occasions):

Today, in 1986, peace was formally agreed, and signed, between the Netherlands and the Scilly Isles. Who even knew they were at war - or that the Scilly Isles might have the means of making war? In fact, it was the longest war in the entirety of human history, a conflict that positively erupted on March 30th 1651, and went on, unbroken, unresolved, unremarked, and unbloody, fully 335 years, until somebody in Holland thought it might be a good idea to end the silly nonsense... click here to read about it.




Wouldn't it be so much more interesting and exciting if we gave our kids world history in school, instead of the narrow parochialisms of "the history of those who have ruled our little tiny realm, their wars, their marriages, their occasional reforms", which is all that most countries on planet Earth can manage.


The illustration at the top of the page has Hatshepsut upper left, Mbande Nzinga upper right, 
Nur Jahan lower left, and Queen Seondeok of Korea lower right

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