The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 25
March 25th, 2012
Celebrations This Weekend: Black Party Expo, New York, NY.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Thomas/Thomasine Hall: 1629. The Virginia Colony Court’s records describe the case of a servant, Thomas or Thomasine Hall, who claimed to be “both a man and a woman.” In testimony before the court, Hall told of being born at or near Newcastle Upon Tyne and recalled being christened “by the name of Thomasine.” Hall was dressed in woman’s apparel until the age of twelve. At the age of 22 while living in London, Hall’s brother joined the army and Hall “cut off his hair and changed his apparel into the fashion of a man” and joined the army. After leaving the army, Hall again “changed himself into woman’s apparel and made bone lace and did other work with his needle.” Shortly after, Hall again changed “his apparel into the habit of a man and so came over into this country.”
After arriving in Virginia as a male, he changed his expression back to that of a woman, but rumors spread that “Hall did lie with a maid … called Great Bess.” In one encounter, two men assaulted Hall, threw him on his back and “pulled out his members,” revealing that Hall anatomically “was a perfect man.” Three other women testified to having searched Hall and reported that “he was a man.” But a Captain Basse performed an inspection and determined that there was “a piece of flesh growing at the [section of the document is missing] belly as big as the top of his littler finger (an) inch long.” Basse commanded Hall “to be put in woman’s apparel,” apparently deciding that Hall was a female. To finally resolve the case, the Court decided to accept Hall’s own self-definition as both man and woman, and ordered the determination “to be published in the plantation” where Hall lived, “that he is a man and a woman” and ordered Hall to “go clothed in man’s apparel, only his head to be attired in a coyse (?) and crosscloth with an apron before him.”
300 Lashes In Savannah for Sodomy: 1734. The description is extremely brief. No names, no details, just two short sentences in the diary of Johann Boltzius and Israel Gronau, Lutheran pastors who ministered to German settlers in the Georgia Colony:
Today an execution of judgment was held here in Savannah. A man from this place had been accused and convicted of sodomy and inciting others, for which he was to receive three hundred lashes under the gallows.
Betty Friedan Says Lesbians Are Taking Over the Women’s Movement: 1973. During the first major fundraising event for the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, noted feminist author Betty Friedan and NOW founder cited “man hating” and lesbians as two factors that would hinder progress for women. In remarks to those gathered, the author of the 1963 book The Feminine Mystique which is credited for sparking the Women’s movement in the 1960s, repeated her opinion that lesbians were being used as a ploy to divide women. “Le U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug introduce a bill for lesbian mothers. Let Ms. Magazine do a special issue about lesbians. But let us concentrate on men and women working together for full partnership in society.” She continued:
“I have had to say some uncomfortable things because I felt they were important. I think the movement has been infiltrated and the lesbian issue has been pushed forward for divisive purposes. We must not let ourselves be used. … You don’t have to hate men or give up children to be liberated.”
An Associated Press article describing the meeting reported this reaction to Friedan’s remarks:
“Her putting down of the lesbian issue as irrelevant to the women’s movement was incredible,” said Jan Welch, who described herself as a feminist, NOW member and a lesbian, but not a man hater. “I want her to prove that I am somehow harmful to the movement because I am a lesbian. I think it’s Betty that’s causing all the problems.”
Elton John: 1947. He was born Reginald Dwight in Middlesex. He started playing piano at the age of three, and took up formal lessons at seven. He took to composition and showmanship early, writing his own music and playing piano like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions. By eleven, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he learned Chopin and Bach. He became a pub pianist at fifteen and began playing in bands around London. He answered an ad in the New Musical Express for a songwriter, and was given a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Dwight wrote music for the lyrics and sent them back to Taupin, and one of history’s most successful song-writing partnerships was born. Shortly after, Dwight adopted the name Elton John. In 1969 he recorded his first Album, Empty Sky, and followed that up with the eponymous Elton John, which yielded him his first US Top Ten single, “Your Song.” A string of hits followed, building toward the 1973 smash “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” from the album by the same name. In 1976, he “came out” as bisexual, but few believed him. When he married German recording engineer Renate Blauel in 1984, many speculated that the marriage was just a cover. They divorced in 1988, and he finally decided he was “comfortable” being gay.” In 1992, he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation which raises money for HIV/AIDS prevention and fighting stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Since 1993, John has been in a relationship with David Furnish, which they formalized with a civil partnership in 2005. They became parents in 2010.
Sheryl Swoopes: 1971. The standout women’s basketball player led her Texas Tech teammates to the NCAA women’s basketball championship in 1993 during her senior year after setting several NCAA records which are still on the books today. When the Women’s National Basketball Association was formed in 1997, she was the first player signed to the new league. She began her professional career with the Houston Comets, returning to the court only six weeks after giving birth to her son and leading the Comets to the 1997 WNBA Championship. From 1995 to 1999, she was married to her high school sweetheart, but in 2005 she finally announced that she was gay, saying “it doesn’t change who I am. I can’t help who I fall in love with. No one can. … Discovering I’m gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I’m a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can’t control that.” Over time, it appears that Swoopes has determined that she is not so much gay as bisexual: in 2011, she broke up with her female partner and became engaged to marry a man.
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This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?