November 30 – Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm

Posted on November 30, 2014

The year was 1972.

Shirley Chisholm took a bold step: she threw her hat in the biggest ring there is in the United States.

Chisholm became the first African American person to ever make a bid for a major party's presidential nomination. Also, she was the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

I remember her candidacy. I was young, idealistic, and so excited to be a part of history. In the primary elections, my state (California) ended up giving her the largest number of votes of any other state. Still, she ended up fourth among all the Democratic presidential hopefuls.

I gather that she didn't really expect to win the nomination—and she didn't—but she ran to demonstrate “sheer will” and her “refusal to accept the status quo.” 

After the nomination of Senator George McGovern was certain, candidate Hubert Humphrey made a symbolic gesture and released all of his black delegates to Chisholm. Those delegates, along with all the delegates she won during the primary season, made Chisholm the fourth-ranking candidate in the Democratic Party. Not bad, considering the fact that she faced impossible odds!

By the way, I talked so much about Chisholm's brave, memorable, and meaningful presidential run, I neglected to say what she ran for an won:

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman ever elected to Congress! She represented New York in the House of Representatives.

More on Chisholm:

  • She was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were immigrants from Caribbean island nations. Chisholm spent about seven years in Barbados attending a strict elementary school, and for the rest of her life she had a slight “West Indian” accent.

  • Before she became a politician, Chisholm was an educator.
  • Chisholm also wrote two autobiographical books (that is, books about her own life). Don't you love the titles? They are Unbought and Unbossed and The Good Fight.

Celebrate Shirley Chisholm!

Check out some videos of and about Shirley Chisholm. Here's one.

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November 29 – Happy Birthday, C. S. Lewis

Posted on November 29, 2014

Many of us do not recognize today's birthday boy (born in 1898) when we see his photo.

We (most of us) do not recognize him when we hear his whole name: Clive Staples Lewis.

We don't even recognize the name his friends used: Jack Lewis. (I'm not sure how you get the nickname “Jack” when your name is Clive...but, oh, well!)

But many people recognize the author C. S. Lewis. He wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a whole lot more books for kids and adults.

I always thought that C. S. Lewis was from England, or at least from Great Britain, but actually he was born in Belfast when it was still a part of Ireland. The island of Ireland was partitioned in 1921 into the Republic of Ireland (which is its own, completely independent nation) and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. (Remember, the United Kingdom's longer name is “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And Great Britain itself is made up of Wales, Scotland, and England.) From the time of the partitioning on, Belfast was the capital of Northern Ireland.

Despite the fact that C. S. Lewis was born in Ireland, he lived most of his life in England. He taught at both Oxford and Cambridge, and he and his good buddy J. R. R. Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings fame) were both members of the literary group called the Inklings.

C. S. Lewis wrote science fiction, fantasy, other fiction, and non-fiction. Certainly his seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe being the first) are his best known works.

...or enjoy this or this other Narnia-based crafts or lapbook activities. 

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November 28 – Maize Day

Posted on November 28, 2014

(Friday after Thanksgiving)

Maize is so amazing, it definitely deserves a day to celebrate its importance. 

It could be argued that it is THE most important crop in the world! 

It is used as an important food source both for domestic animals and for people, and some cultures depend on it as a staple food.

You probably know maize by its most common American name, corn. There are many varieties of corn / maize grown for different purposes, such as flour corn, popcorn, sweet corn, ornamental maize, and so forth. Corn can be eaten off the cob or removed from the cob to be cooked and served as a vegetable. It can be popped and eaten as a snack or pressed and made into the sweetener called corn syrup. Kernels can be bleached with lye (hominy), coarsely ground (grits), or finely ground and made into masa (cornbread, corn tortillas, tamales) or into porridge (polenta, mush). Corn can even be baked or fried into crispy corn flakes or corn chips!

I love me some ornamental maize!

Did you know...?

Apparently this sight is common in the U.S.
but almost unknown in many parts of the world.
Corn-based foods are common;
eating corn straight off the cob is not.
  • Corn or maize was originally domesticated in Mesoamerica (in and around Mexico) and spread to the rest of the Americas and Native Americans. After Europeans discovered the Americans, the rest of the world got to try this sweet and tasty food.
  • Maize was first cultivated millennia ago, and by 1500 BCE its use was spreading far and wide.
  • Scientists believe that maize cultivation around 500 to 1,000 years ago may have caused freshwater mussels to decline.

This odd sight is 109 six-foot-tall corn cobs
built to memorialize Sam Frantz, who
invented hybrid corn.

To celebrate the Maize Day...

  • Make cornbread or some other tasty-corny treat.
  • Make popcorn balls.
  • Find a corn maze to explore.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the first skywriting in U.S. skies 

Albania's Independence Day 

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November 27 – Happy Birthday, Jimi Hendrix

Posted on November 27, 2014

Despite the fact that Jimi Hendrix was a well known musician for just four years before his accidental death cut short his career, he is still seen as one of the most important and influential electric guitarists in history!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes Jimi Hendrix as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”! 

Born in Seattle, Washington, on this date in 1942, Hendrix began playing the guitar at age 15.

After a brief stint in the U.S. Army, Hendrix began to work as a professional musician in both the U.S. and the U.K. Soon he reached star status, with Number 1 albums and headlining festivals such as Woodstock.

It's so tragic that misuse (or overuse?) of drugs killed this brilliant musician when he was just 27 years old!

  • Do you recognize the song Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock? (The first half of the video.) 

Also on this date:


Anniversary of the invention of the friction match 

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November 26 – How to Keep Your Medal of Honor

Posted on November 26, 2014

Today is the birthday of Mary Edwards Walker. Born on this date in 1832, Walker became a doctor and acted as a surgeon during the Civil War. She crossed enemy lines to treat injured civilians, and she was captured by Confederate forces and kept for a while as a prisoner of war, just in case she was a spy!

In 1865, President Andrew Johnson awarded her with the Congressional Medal of Honor for her wartime service.

That's all pretty normal – if you can call hard work, dedication, and courage normal, and if you think that rewarding those things is normal – but then the story gets distinctly odd.

Fifty-two years after she received that medal, Congress changed its standards for awarding the Medal of Honor. Congress decided that only achievements in “actual combat with an enemy” now count toward the honor. Walker had of course battled “enemies” like disease and injury and death, but she'd also tangled with the non-metaphorical enemy, the Confederate army – hence her capture and imprisonment! – however, she hadn't been engaged in “combat” with the Confederate soldiers.

And so it was that, when the army reevaluated all the medals previously given out, Walker's name, as well as 910 other names, were struck from the Medal of Honor Rolls!

In other words, the army took away the Medal of Honor from 911 people – including Walker – to retroactively fit the new standards! Wh-wh-what???

Apparently, none of the recipients were asked to send back their medals, but some thought that the 911 people whose names had been removed from the Medal of Honor Rolls should no longer wear their medals. However, Walker reportedly wore it every day until her death.

It may have been her tenacity in claiming and proudly wearing her Medal of Honor that helped inspire others to re-evaluate Walker's re-evaluation. However it went, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously. 

Did you know...?

Mary Edwards Walker is still the only woman to have ever received the Congressional Medal of Honor!

Walker is one of only eight civilians to win the Medal of Honor.

After the Civil War, Walker became a writer and lecturer supporting the women's suffrage movement.

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