Mabon is a pagan holiday which celebrates the Autumnal equinox. In the astronomical season, it marks the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere or the moment when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, meaning day and night are of equal length.
September is my birth month so therefore my favourite month. For me it’s also the start of Autumn, I grew up with that being the case and nothing will change my mind so this months prompt is everything Autumn. Books with Autumn as the focal point, autumnal colours, books that remind you of the season or even an ode to this wonderful time of the year.
Women of Note
2 September 1838 Queen Lili‘uokalani born. The first female monarch of Hawaii to reign in her own right and last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Also a composer and musician. She was deposed in a coup led by American sugar planters on 17 January 1893. They established the Republic of Hawaii. Ninety-five per cent of the population objected and Lili‘uokalani went to Washington, DC to plead their case, but five years later the islands were annexed to the US. In 1993 an ‘Apology Resolution’ was passed by the US Congress which recognised that ‘… the Native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands …’ In 2009 the Supreme Court ruled this resolution had no legal effect in any claim for Hawaiian independence.Toksvig’s Almanac
4 September 1996 Joan Clarke dies. Born 1917, Clarke was a cryptanalyst and numismatist famous for codebreaking in the Second World War. She gained a double first degree in mathematics at Cambridge in 1933 but no woman was given a full degree. She was recruited to decoding operations at Bletchley Park, where she became deputy head of her section but couldn’t progress because of her gender. She was paid less than the men. She was briefly engaged to Alan Turing, unfazed by his revelation of homosexuality. The full extent of her accomplishments remains unrecorded and unknown.Toksvig’s Almanac
5 September 1939 Claudette Colvin born. Pioneer American civil rights activist, and nurse aide. Aged fifteen, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat for a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, nine months before the more widely known incident with Rosa Parks. She was arrested for her refusal. She had been mad that day, having written a school essay about blacks not being allowed to use department store dressing rooms to try on clothes. She was unmarried, pregnant and didn’t have ‘good hair’. Black leaders did not think she would make a good representative for their case against segregation. She has said, ‘Young people think Rosa Parks just sat down on a bus and ended segregation, but that wasn’t the case at all.’Toksvig’s Almanac
10 September 1749 Émilie du Châtelet dies. French natural philosopher and mathematician, born 1706. Her mother wanted her to be a nun, but her father helped her gain an education. She once joined an intellectual discussion by dressing as a man. She is best remembered for her translation of, and commentary on, Isaac Newton’s 1687 book Principia containing basic laws of physics. Her work made a profound contribution to Newtonian mechanics. In addition to her famous translations she also wrote philosophical work of her own. Partner and collaborator with Voltaire, which meant her own achievements have often been subsumed under his. She was a very respected thinker of her time. In 1738 she was the first woman to have a scientific paper published by the Paris Academy. She died in childbirth.Toksvig’s Almanac
13 September 1944 Noor Inayat Khan dies. Also known as Nora Baker, Madeleine (SOE code name), Nurse (SOE call sign), Jeanne-Marie Renier (SOE alias). Born 1914, she was a British Second World War spy from an Indian Muslim family. She gave up her career as a writer to join the Special Operations Executive because, she said, ‘I wish some Indians would win high military distinction in this war. If one or two could do something in the Allied service which was very brave and which everybody admired it would help to make a bridge between the English people and the Indians.’ She was the first female wireless operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to help the French Resistance. She was betrayed and captured. She was executed in Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Eliane Plewman. Her last word was reported as ‘Liberté’. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre with silver star. It’s an extraordinary story. There is a bronze bust of her in Gordon Square Gardens, London.Toksvig’s Almanac
16 September 1887 Nadia Boulanger born. ‘Anyone who acts without paying attention to what he is doing is wasting his life. I’d go so far as to say that life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.’ French composer, performer and conductor, Boulanger taught many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. She was the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in America and Europe, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Hallé and New York Philharmonic. Please also listen to her sister Lili Boulanger’s work, for example D’un matin de printemps (Of a Spring Morning).Toksvig’s Almanac
21 September 2017 Evelyn Scott dies. Indigenous Australian social activist and educator, born 1935. Scott began working in the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League in the 1960s. She was actively involved in campaigning for the 1967 Constitutional Referendum, which led to the inclusion of indigenous people in the national census. She chaired the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the late 1990s. Scott was the first Indigenous woman to receive a Queensland state funeral.Toksvig’s Almanac
24 September 1794 Jeanne Villepreux-Power born. Pioneering French marine biologist and, in 1832, inventor of the aquarium. She began her career as a dressmaker; in 1816 she created Princess Caroline’s wedding gown when she married Charles-Ferdinand de Bourbon. Villepreux married an English merchant, James Power, and the couple moved to Sicily. It was here she began her natural history studies with the intention of creating an inventory of the island’s ecosystem. She created three types of aquarium: a glass one for her study, a submersible glass one in a cage, and a cage for larger molluscs out at sea. Beginning in 1839 she published her findings. When she and James left Sicily in 1843 many of her records and drawings were lost in a shipwreck.Toksvig’s Almanac
27 September 1871 Grazia Deledda born. Italian writer, novelist and the first Italian woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1926. She wrote about life on her native island of Sardinia. Her first novel, Fiori di Sardegna (Flowers of Sardinia), was published in 1892. She was prolific, writing, on average, a novel a year. She had a pet crow called Checcha.Toksvig’s Almanac
28 September 1938 Rosario Ferré born. Writer, poet, academic, she acted as First Lady of Puerto Rico for her father between 1970 and 1972. She published her first writing aged fourteen, and became one of the leading women authors in contemporary Latin America. She gained her BA and PhD in the US. She won international awards for her writing. Her novel House on the Lagoon was written in English.Toksvig’s Almanac
30 September 1900 Tilly Devine born. English-born organised crime boss in Sydney, Australia. She and her Australian husband Jim Devine left their son with Tilly’s parents when they left London to live in Australia. Together the became narcotics dealers, brothel owners and crime gang members. The New South Wales Vagrancy Act 1905 prohibited men from running brothels but not women. The Devines’ establishment had different kinds of prostitutes – elite ‘call girls’ for politicians, businessmen and overseas guests of significance; ‘tenement girls’, hard-up young working-class women who resorted to casual prostitution; and ‘boat girls’, older female prostitutes who served sailors or working-class men. Tilly became very rich. She was convicted 204 times and served many jail sentences for prostitution, violent assault, affray and attempted murder. Her life is a colourful read.Toksvig’s Almanac