#MindforBooksPrompt – August


The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The meteors are called the Perseids because the point from which they appear to hail (called the radiant) lies in the constellation Perseus. Visible between July and August each year with the peak being around 13th August.

So for August we are taking to the stars and the prompt is for everything Space related! 🌌

Women of Note

3 August 1902 Rabbi Regina Jonas born. Born in Berlin in 1935, she became the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi. Jonas was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1942 and deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she set up a suicide prevention service and helped organise concerts and lectures to distract others. In 1944 she was sent to Auschwitz, where she was murdered. Her work in the camps was largely forgotten until 1991 when she was ‘rediscovered’.

Toksvig’s Almanac

4 August 1923 Mayme A. Clayton born. Clayton was a librarian and the founder, president and leader of the Western States Black Research and Education Center (WSBREC), the largest privately held collection of African American historical materials in the world. She used her own money to collect more than 30,000 rare and out-of-print books. The collection is now held in Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (MCLM), Culver City, California. It has 3.5 million items and includes a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s famous work of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, from 1773

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5 August 1946 Dr Shirley Ann Jackson born. An award-winning theoretical physicist, Jackson was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT. She’s brilliant on subatomic particles and Landau–Ginsburg theories of charge density waves in layered compounds, which for all I know about physics may be the same thing. I mean, I’ve got nothing on this, except she’s amazing and in addition to her scientific achievements has raised a billion dollars for philanthropic causes. President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Highest-paid currently sitting US college president. Quite right.

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8 August 1856 Madame Vestris dies. British actress, opera singer and theatre manager, born 1797. She first found fame for what are known as ‘breeches parts’ (playing men) in opera because she had a low voice. She didn’t stick with the posh stuff. When she took over the Olympic Theatre she became the first female actor-manager in London theatre. Here she presented burlesque and extravaganzas. She is very important in set design as she insisted on using real props, historically accurate costumes, and was the first to introduce the ‘box set’ where a whole room complete with ceiling is presented on stage. It was all a high new standard for theatre.

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14 August 1791 Cécile Fatiman’s vodou ceremony helps start the Haitian Revolution. Haitian vodou priestess, born 1771. Fatiman and her mother were both sold as slaves. On this day she took part in a vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman, considered to be one of the starting points of the Haitian Revolution, a successful slave rebellion to overthrow the French. A week later a thousand slaveholders were killed. She was said to have lived to be 112.

15 August 2006 Dame Te Atairangikaahu dies. New Zealand queen of the Kingitanga, born 1931. At forty years, hers is the longest reign of any Māori monarch. Her name meant ‘the hawk of the morning sky’, a title bestowed on her when she became queen. She worked to revitalise Māori culture and language and improve life for her people. The first Māori to be appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and first ever appointee to the Order of New Zealand (her badge of the order bears the number one).

17 August 1981 Mariama Bâ dies. Pioneer Senegalese author and feminist. Born in Dakar in 1929. Raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother didn’t believe in girls’ education but her grandfather sent her to school. This experience made her a critic of gender inequality at an early age. Later in life her divorce would leave her as a single parent of nine children. She wrote her debut novel aged fifty. So Long a Letter, about her frustration with the fate of African women, was translated into many languages.

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18 August 1848 Camila O’Gorman executed. Nineteenth-century Argentine socialite of Irish descent, born in 1827 or 1828. O’Gorman was executed over a scandal involving her relationship with a 24-year-old Jesuit priest, Father Gutiérrez. They tried to elope but were kidnapped and returned to Buenos Aires. The Argentine dictator General Juan Manuel de Rosas (who had five kids of his own with the family maid) was determined to make an example of them. She was twenty years old and eight months pregnant when they both faced a firing squad. They were buried together in a single coffin as a final act of compassion. It’s a great, if shocking love story. Rosas was eventually overthrown. He fled to England and lived out his days in Southampton.

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And apropos of nothing, fuck you Juan Manuel de Rosas you absolute shit-stain!!

21 August 1614 Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed dies. Hungarian noblewoman, born 1560. The most prolific female murderer of all time. So prolific I can’t really give you an exact number of victims. Maybe 650. Despite this, her family were noble so she wasn’t executed but imprisoned instead in her own castle (Čachtice Castle. Now a ruin in Slovakia). Apparently she started her spree with servant girls and then moved on to the daughters of lesser nobility. She also seems to have a bit of the vampire about her and maybe a hint of cannibalism, but you know how people exaggerate. There are those who say the stories about her were all a political conspiracy.

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22 August 1664 Maria Cunitz dies. Born in 1610, Cunitz was an astronomer in Silesia (a historical region mostly in modern Poland). She is the most notable female astronomer of the early modern era. During the Thirty Years War she and her husband hung out in a convent where she had time to make astronomical observations and create tables to include all of the planets at any moment in time. These were published as Urania propitia. She corrected several of the great German Johannes Kepler’s errors and became well known in Europe.

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24 August 1987 Ayesha Farooq born. Since 2013 Farooq has been Pakistan’s first and only female combat-ready pilot. She flies missions in a Chinese-made Chengdu J-7 fighter jet alongside her twenty-four male colleagues in Squadron 20. There are nineteen women pilots in the Pakistani Air Force. ‘Instead of looking up to role models, become one yourself.’

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29 August 1924 Dinah Washington born. American singer and pianist, ‘Queen of the Blues’. Born Ruth Lee Jones. Probably the most popular black female recording artist of the 1950s. She did a show at the London Palladium where Queen Elizabeth II was said to be in the audience. She told the crowd: ‘There is but one heaven, one hell, one queen, and your Elizabeth is an imposter.’ She died of a heart attack aged just thirty-nine, yet she managed to find time to marry eight times.

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31 August 1941 Marina Tsvetaeva dies. Russian/Soviet poet, born 1892. She was among the greats of 20th-century Russian literature but hers is a terrible story. She tried to save her daughters from the famine that followed the Russian Revolution of 1917 by placing them in a state orphanage, but her youngest died of starvation. Her husband was executed in 1941 on espionage charges and she committed suicide the same year. She had a deep love affair with the openly lesbian poet Sophia Parnok, which had a huge effect on both their writing. The work is wonderful. And she gives us our Poem for August: POEM OF THE MONTH Amidst the dust of bookshops, wide dispersed And never purchased there by anyone, Yet similar to precious wines, my verse Can wait – its time will come.

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