Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

Ladislaus the Posthumous (1440)

Born four months after the death of his father, Albert II of Hapsburg, Ladislaus spent much of his childhood under the control of his powerful guardians, who refused to surrender the boy to his rightful place as king of Bohemia and Hungary. Though he was finally crowned king of Bohemia at age 13, he was unable to gain control of his realms before dying, probably of poisoning, just four years later. His coronation as king of Hungary when he was a baby was made possible by what daring theft? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Jeanne Calment (1875)

At the age of 100, Calment was still riding a bicycle around her native Arles, France. She lived on her own until she was 110 and smoked until she was 117. She saw the Eiffel Tower being built and remembered selling colored pencils to Vincent van Gogh as a girl in her family’s shop. By the time she died in 1997 at the age of 122, Calment had lived the longest confirmed human life in history—and outlived her entire family. What foods have been cited as contributing to Calment’s longevity? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Tony Wilson (1950)

Beginning in the late 1970s, the English city of Manchester became the epicenter of a vibrant music scene that produced such seminal bands as Joy Division, Happy Mondays, and the Stone Roses. One of the key people behind the Manchester scene was Wilson, a record label owner, club manager, and journalist. The 2002 film 24 Hour Party People is based on his life. Despite his widespread influence, he made little money from his work and was unable to pay for what expensive medical treatment? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Shivaji (1630)

A devout Hindu, Shivaji grew up hating the Mughal Empire that controlled most of his native India. Around 1655, he began making guerrilla attacks on the Muslim kingdom of Bijapur, gradually carving out his own domain. He lured the Bijapur army to its destruction, becoming a formidable warlord overnight by taking the army’s equipment. He then established the Maratha Empire, which was noted for its religious tolerance. How did he once make a daring escape from the Mughal emperor’s palace? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Helen Gurley Brown (1922)

Propelled to fame by her 1962 bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, Brown became editor-in-chief of the struggling Cosmopolitan magazine. By directing the magazine toward single, young career women and by being an outspoken advocate of women’s sexual freedom, she not only revived the publication but also played a part in the sexual revolution. By the end of her 32-year tenure with Cosmopolitan, the magazine ranked sixth at the newsstand but first in what other kind of store? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Isabelle Eberhardt (1877)

As a Swiss explorer traveling in North Africa, Eberhardt often dressed as a man to move more freely through Arab society. Intensely independent, she took the side of Algerians fighting against colonial French rule. She converted to Islam, was initiated into a Sufi brotherhood, and married an Algerian soldier. She wrote about her travels in books and newspapers. She survived a murder attempt—in which her arm was badly injured by a saber—only to die at the age of 27 in what unlikely fashion? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Vera Menchik (1906)

A Russian-born British international chess master, Menchik won seven consecutive Women’s World Chess Championships, beginning with the first one ever held and ending in 1939, when World War II halted the tournament. She and her family were killed in an air raid on London in 1944. When Menchik entered a men’s tournament in 1929, Viennese master Albert Becker ridiculed her by saying that anyone who lost to her should become a part of the “Vera Menchik Club.” Who was the first of its many members? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Irena Sendler (1910)

Working with Polish resistance groups and a network of helpers, Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children during WWII by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, sometimes hidden in suitcases. After changing the children’s names and arranging for their care, she buried records of their identities in jars, hoping to someday reunite them with their parents. Though she was arrested, tortured, and reportedly executed in 1943, she actually survived the war and lived to be 98. How did she survive the Nazis? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Anna Howard Shaw (1847)

Some feminists observe Shaw’s birthday in place of Valentine’s Day, celebrating her legacy as a leading American suffragist, doctor, and lecturer. During World War I, she coordinated women’s activities in the war effort, becoming the first woman to earn the Distinguished Service Medal. After becoming a close confidante of Susan B. Anthony, Shaw worked as one of the most effective speakers of the suffrage movement. She was also a minister who became the first woman to be ordained by what church? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Sarojini Naidu (1879)

Known as “the Nightingale of India,” Naidu was an Indian child prodigy who began writing poetry as a young girl. She went on to pursue politics and became the first Indian woman to serve as president of the Indian National Congress and the first female governor of Uttar Pradesh. She enjoyed a close relationship with Mohandas Gandhi, and her participation in passive disobedience campaigns landed her in jail on multiple occasions. How is Naidu’s birthday celebrated in India? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary