This Day in History

1660: A woman on stage: In all of Western theatrical history, the roles of women were always played by men in drag. In the Shakespearean era, theatre barred women from the stage. Stagecraft was associated with immorality, as theaters were usually located in the same neighborhoods as brothels, and actors were of a similar class as prostitutes. The Restoration era, where the English monarchy was restored after a bloody civil war and parliamentary rule, saw women grace the English stage for the first time. Either Anne Marshal or Margarete Hughs played the role Desdemona in Shakespeare’s “Othello” on this day in 1660.

1854: Immaculate Conception: Catholic theologians and philosophers had long speculated on whether Mary, the mother of Jesus, was conceived without original sin. Original sin, in Catholic theology, is the state of sinfulness that all humanity inherited after the fall when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As such, we are born into a common sinfulness. However, many Catholic philosophers had to deal with the fact that Jesus was born to a mortal and, theoretically sinful, woman. Pope Pius IX declared in “Ineffabilis Deus,” that Mary was conceived immaculately, that is, without original sin, so that her son, God incarnate, could be born into the world.

1941: U.S. Declares War on Japan: World War II had been ravaging Europe for two years, and Imperial Japan was expanding in Asia. The U.S. supported and sold arms to the Allied powers, while maintaining neutrality in these early years of the war. The Japanese, however, bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec.7, 1941. The next day, Dec. 8, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech to congress calling Dec. 7 “A day that will live in infamy.” In less than an hour, Congress declared war on Japan, making the U.S. an official player in the drama of World War II.

1980: John Lennon Shot: The Beatles had died out a decade earlier, but John Lennon had earned his place in popular culture as a musician, activist, and agitator. He lived in New York City in an apartment called the Dakota. On this day, Lennon signed a copy of his album “Double Fantasy” for fan Mark David Chapman. Later in the evening, when Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were returning, Chapman shot Lennon four times in the back with a .38 special. After being rushed to the hospital, Lennon was declared dead on arrival.

1991: Soviet Union Dissolved: Russia and all the surrounding countries were joined under a collective, communist government called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, otherwise known as the U.S.S.R. or the Soviet Union. By 1989, the seam of communism unraveled under Western pressure. The Soviet Union was officially dissolved when the leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine signed an agreement on this day in 1991. Romania also adopted its own constitution after years of communist rule.

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