Tag Archives: social reformer

Almanac – June 06

1832 – Jeremy Bentham died. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism.

He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

He had continued to write up to a month before his death, aged 84,  and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

After dissection, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting”.

Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. However, Southwood Smith’s experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulphuric acid and simply drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.

The Auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It is now locked away securely.

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Almanac – May 14

1771 – Robert Owen born.  Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.

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1881 – Mary Seacole died. Jamaican-born woman of Scottish and Creole descent who set up a ‘British Hotel’ behind the lines during the Crimean War, which she described as “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers,” and provided succour for wounded servicemen on the battlefield.

She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 2004 she was voted the greatest Black Briton.

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1940 – Emma Goldman died. Russian  anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches.

She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Almanac – March 30

1844 – Paul Verlaine born. French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.

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1853 – Vincent van Gogh born.  Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art.

After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found).His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

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1905 – Albert Pierrepoint born. English hangman, he executed at least 400 people, about half of them war criminals.

Pierrepoint was often dubbed the Official Executioner, despite there being no such job or title. The office of executioner had traditionally been performed by the local sheriff, who increasingly delegated the task to a person of suitable character, employed and paid only when required. Pierrepoint continued to work day jobs after qualifying as an Assistant Executioner in 1932 and a Chief Executioner in 1941, in the steps of his father and uncle.

Following his retirement in 1956, the Home Office acknowledged Pierrepoint as the most efficient executioner in British history.There is no official tally of his hangings, which some have estimated at more than 600; the most commonly accepted figure is 435.

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1925 – Rudolf Steiner died. Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher. At the beginning of the 20th century, he founded a spiritual movement, anthroposophy, as an esoteric philosophy growing out of idealist philosophy and with links to theosophy.

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2004 – Timi Yuro died.  American singer and songwriter. Sometimes called “the little girl with the big voice,” she is considered to be one of the first blue-eyed soul stylists of the rock era.

According to one critic, “her deep, strident, almost masculine voice, staggered delivery and the occasional sob created a compelling musical presence.”

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Almanac – February 15

1748 – Jeremy Bentham born. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

 

 

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Almanac – October 01

1760 – William Thomas Beckford born. English novelist, a profligate and consummately knowledgeable art collector and patron of works of decorative art, a critic, travel writer and sometime politician, reputed at one stage in his life to be the richest commoner in England. He is remembered as the author of the Gothic novel Vathek and as the builder of the remarkable lost Fonthill Abbey – a superfolly in an age of folly building. Most of it collapsed under the weight of its poorly-built tower the night of 21 December 1825. The remains of the house were slowly removed, leaving only a fragment, which exists today as a private home.

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1847 – Annie Besant born. British social reformer. She was a prominent Fabian socialist in the 1880s before becoming an adherent of Theosophy in 1889. She served as international president of the Theosophical Society from 1907 until her death, and her writings are still considered some of the best expositions of theosophical belief. After immigrating to India, she became an Indian independence leader and established the Indian Home Rule League in 1916.

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1937 – The US House of Representatives passed The Marihuana Tax Act, an important bill on the path that led to the criminalization of cannabis.
 A very cunning strategy – it stipulated that it could not be sold without a license… and licenses were never issued.

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1946 – Dave Holland born. English jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader.A member of Miles Davis‘s band for a couple of years, he played on the In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew albums.

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1962 – James Meredith registered at the University of Mississippi -accompanied by 400 U.S. deputy marshals and 1000 troops to guard the campus from further trouble – there had been 2 lives lost and 75 injuries to allow Meredith to break the schools 110 year history of segregation by being the first Negro to attend classes.

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