April 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dorothea Dix

Born on this day in 1802, Dix was a vigorous reformer who worked on bettering the treatment of insane people. She was shocked by the horrible way that people lived in mental so-called hospitals, and she worked on getting governmental investigations of the treatment of the insane, public mental hospitals, and elimination of the abuses that had been routine and expected.

During the Civil War, Dix served as Superintendent of Union Army Nurses. She didn't feel very capable of management duties, but she was known for treating Union and Confederate soldiers equally, and under her leadership, most of the Union Army nurses did the same.

Also on this day...
Independence Day – Senegal

Senegal is a country in Western Africa. It celebrates its
independence from French colonial rule today.

One of the oddest things about Senegal is its shape. There is a long, skinny “scoop” taken out of the country—which is a river (the Gambia) and a 10- to 15-mile strip of land on either side. That narrow patch of land and river is its own separate nation, called (not surprisingly) The Gambia.

Why is The Gambia a separa
te nation?
Well, a long time ago, Portugal was establishing its power in Africa, and in 1588, Antonio of Portugal sold “exclusive trade rights” on the Gambia River to England. Later, when France was establishing its control over the area, it fought with England for the Gambia, but ended up acknowledging England's “ownership” in 1783.

So the Gambia was a British colony, and Senega
l was a French colony. In some ways it makes no sense for the two to remain different countries now, but language and custom and history are important!

A loose confederation (not union) was tried in the 1980s. This confederation was called Senegambia. Senegal dissolved the confederation in 1989 when The Gambia made it clear that it was not interested in actual union.

So they remain lock-and-key shaped nations.

Also on this date... Easter Sunday!

According to Christian teachings, Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day after he died, and this is the
holiday that celebrates that renewal of life.
Because Jesus was celebrating Passover in Jerusalem at the time of his death, Easter is linked, not with a particular date on the Western calendar, but with the Passover week on the Jewish calendar.

Symbols of renewal of life during spring—flowers, bunnies, and eggs—are also linked with Easter. In Russian, Polish, and Ukranian traditions, elaborate batik eggs are made with deep dyes and wax. In many modern cultures, children use more pastel vegetable dyes to color eggs, and on Easter Sunday itself kids hunt for hidden eggs. Often the eggs are plastic and filled with candy! Fun!

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