Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On October 15

On this day in ...
... 1883 (125 years ago today), in a judgment captioned The Civil Rights Cases, the U.S. Supreme Court (right) struck as unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had required that black persons and white persons be treated equally in sectors that, though privately owned, provided to the public services like transportation, lodging, and entertainment. Over a dissent by the 1st Justice John Marshall Harlan, 8 members of the Court ruled that the 14th Amendment governed only state action; private acts of discrimination were deemed outside the scope of that provision of the Constitution. The 13th Amendment, which banned slavery, was acknowledged applicable to private action; however, the majority of the Court reasoned, the discrimination under review was not equivalent to slavery. Congress would not pass another Civil Rights Act until 1957. (image credit)
... 1880, Dr. Marie Stopes (below left) was born in Edinburgh, to a father who was an architect and a mother who was a Shakespeare expert and the 1st woman to graduate from a Scottish university. At age 21, Stopes herself earned a bachelor's degree in botany and geology, with honors, from University College London. (photo credit) After earning doctorates in Britain and Germany, she became the 1st woman on the science faculty at the University of Manchester, and also the 1st to receive a British Royal Society grant to do research in Japan. She is best known for her many straightforward, pathbreaking publications on sex and contraception -- works that drew criticism, to which she responded by suing (unsuccessfully) for libel. She and her husband founded Britain's 1st birth control clinic. It has metamorphosed into Marie Stopes International, a "leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services" -- on account of which it is now at odds with the U.S. government. Before her death in 1958 Stopes uttered many notable quotes, among them:

You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing.

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