1254 The British Parliament first convened.
1531 King Henry VIII was recognized as the supreme head of the Church of England. (See November 17th entry.)
1812 The gerrymander was born.
1847 Thomas Alva Edison was born. (National Science Youth Day)
1929 Italy signed the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican.
1975 Margaret Thatcher became the first female head of the British Conservative Party.
1984 The space shuttle Challenger returned to earth.
1989 Barbara Harris became the first consecrated female Episcopal bishop.
This is the British Parliament’s birthday. In 1254, Earl Richard of Cornwall summoned two elected knights from every shire and all of the king’s barons to meet at Westminster Abbey while his brother King Henry III was fighting in France. They met to confer on the matter of raising more money for military defense. Before this epic meeting, the king consulted only with his royal advisors and key members of the clergy. The establishment of this parliamentary assembly assured the barons and elected representatives a significant voice in government. Sadly, when King Henry returned four years later, he tried to dissolve the parliament. But the barons prevailed.
If mother—as the saying goes—was the necessity of invention, then today could be a Mother’s Day of sorts. This was the day a man who lived by his own scientific inventions, inspired by the natural curiosity he had developed in his youth, was born. Thomas Alva Edison was born on this day in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. And for some years, the occasion of his birth was observed as National Science Youth Day.
Back on this date in 1812, the Governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed a bill setting his state’s district lines. A cartoonist looked at the new oddly placed borders and drew a caricature of the redisricting. To him, it looked like a salamander. Combining Governor Gerry’s name with the map’s shape, the cartoonist came up with a new word: gerrymandering. It means distorting a natural contour to suit your own ends. And you can, so to speak, gerrymander an issue as well as a state. You can take a situation and create your own borderlines. That is particularly easy when you have a complicated subject. But in the end, these Jerry-rigged subjective perceptions might not hold up to others’ scrutiny.
This is a double landmark day for the Episcopal Church. First, in 1531, King Henry VIII was officially recognized as the Church of England’s supreme head. The dispute between the king and the Vatican escalated with this radical act. But certainly even the non-conforming Henry would have been alarmed when Barbara Harris became the first consecrated female bishop in the Episcopal Church over four and a half centuries later. In 1989, the ceremony—held in Boston, Massachusetts—signaled the end of the long- held tradition that only male clergy could rise through the Church’s ranks.
In Great Britain, the separation of Church and State had been disputed for nearly five centuries until King Henry VIII declared himself as the Church of England’s supreme head on this day in 1531. But reform—both spiritual and political—has occurred more than once on this day. In 1975, Margaret Thatcher became the first female head of the British Conservative Party. And fourteen years later, in 1989, Barbara Harris was consecrated as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Vatican gained its independence on this day in 1929. The seat of the Roman Catholic Church—situated in the center of Italy’s capital—was not a separate entity even though its interests spread far beyond the borders of its host nation. But when the
Italian government signed the Lateran Treaty, Vatican City gained sovereignty. It was a fortuitous event. In less than a decade, Italy’s fascist government expanded its interests and influence in a very different direction.
It wasn’t the first time an astronaut walked in space, but on this date in 1984, the space shuttle Challenger returned to earth after an eight-day mission that featured the first untethered space walk.