#MindforBooksPrompt – April

Aphrodite

There is a whole thing in relation to the naming of April and in a very tangential and roundabout way, one of the many theories is that it was named for Aphrodite. It’s stretching but I want a romance month so here we are!

Prompt for this one is love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. Have at it!

Women of Note

1 April 1940 Dr Wangarĩ Muta Maathai born. First African woman to win the Nobel Prize, for Peace, in 2004. Renowned Kenyan social, environmental and political activist. The first female professor in Kenya. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organisation focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights.

Toksvig’s Almanac

3 April 1980 Megan Rohrer born. American pastor and activist. They became the first openly transgender minister ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2017, they were hired by the San Francisco Police Department as their first chaplain from the LGBTQ community.

Toksvig’s Almanac

6 April 2010 Wilma Mankiller dies. Born in 1945, Mankiller became the first woman elected as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Activist, social worker, community organiser. Took part in the nineteen-month-long occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 to reclaim it for Native Americans.

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7 April 1938 Suzanne Valadon dies. Fabulous and bold French painter, born 1865. First woman admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Taught herself to draw from observing artists when she worked as a model. See her in Renoir’s Dance at Bougival and Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrait of her from 1885.

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13 April 1828 Josephine Butler born. English feminist and social reformer. Campaigned for women’s suffrage, better education for women, the retainment of women’s legal rights when married, the abolition of child prostitution, and an end to human trafficking into prostitution. A champion.

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14 April 1935 Emmy Noether dies. German mathematical genius, born 1882. Brilliant at abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Noether’s theorem unites two pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation. It doesn’t matter if I understand it. I know it’s important. Some say Noether’s theorem is as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity but hardly anyone knows about her. She often published groundbreaking work under a male pseudonym. She had to leave Germany for the US because she was Jewish. Let’s take a minute for Emmy.

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16 April 1850 Marie Tussaud dies. French artist known for her wax sculptures of famous figures. Born in 1761, she founded Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London. She made death-masks of prominent victims of the French Revolution, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat and Robespierre.

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18 April 1692 Abigail Hobbs arrested for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Abigail was between fourteen and sixteen years old when she was accused of being a witch in the notorious Salem witchcraft trials. She confessed and accused others. During the trials more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft and nineteen were executed (fourteen women and five men). At least five others died in jail. It is a famous case of mass hysteria. Abigail was sentenced to be executed but reprieved.

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22 April 1909 Rita Levi-Montalcini born. Italian Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. Neuro-biologist. In 1938 a law barred Jews from university positions. In 1943 she and her family fled to Florence following the German invasion. They took false identities and were protected by some non-Jewish friends. She set up a lab in her bedroom where she studied the growth of nerve fibres in chicken embryos. Her work on cell division has been invaluable in fields such as senile dementia, delayed wound healing and tumour diseases.

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23 April 2007 Barbara Hillary becomes the first black woman to reach the North Pole. Born in 1931, Hillary was an American nurse and publisher. At seventy-five she became the first black woman to reach the North Pole and, at seventy-nine, she reached the South Pole. She did it because she learned it hadn’t been done. She became an inspirational speaker, giving lectures on climate change.

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25 April 1920 Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu born. Romanian neurosurgeon, and one of the first female neurosurgeons in the world. Became a doctor after a school friend died due to infection after brain surgery. During the bombing of Bucharest in 1944, she was forced to perform emergency brain surgery on an injured boy due to lack of medical staff. Her career as a neurosurgeon spanned forty-seven years.

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26 April 1889 Anita Loos born American screenwriter, playwright and author. In 1912 she became the first ever female staff scriptwriter in Hollywood. Check out comic novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the Broadway adaptation of Colette’s novella Gigi. Loos lived an extraordinary life. She claimed to be furious with women’s liberation saying, ‘They keep getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming that women are brighter than men. That’s true, but it should be kept very quiet or it ruins the whole racket.’

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Anita Loos is what we can safely call a LEGEND! 😀

30 April 1928 Bessie Coleman dies. Early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license. She earned her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license. She then became a high-profile pilot in notoriously dangerous air shows in the United States. She was popularly known as Queen Bess and Brave Bessie, and hoped to start a school for African-American fliers. Coleman died in a plane crash. Her pioneering role was an inspiration to early pilots and to the African-American and Native American communities.

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