What Happened on February 11?

  • Nelson Mandela was released from prison. (1990) Mandela had been imprisoned for almost 30 years because of his efforts to end the South African apartheid. After his release, Mandela continued to fight against the apartheid, and was elected the next year as the President of South Africa. He was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

  • The first hospital opened in the US. (1752) The Pennsylvania Hospital admitted its first patients on this day. The hospital was founded by Benjamin Franklin, and quickly became known as a progressive hospital, especially in its care of the mentally ill and pregnant women.

  • The first gerrymandering incident took place. (1812) Gerrymandering is the redrawing of electoral district lines to favor one party over the other. The first gerrymandering was done by Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who rearranged the voting districts for the state's senate elections. The term "gerrymandering" came about since the new districts were supposedly in the shape of a salamander, and were arranged by Elbridge Gerry — hence "Gerry-mandering."

  • The Meiji Constitution was adopted in Japan. (1889) This marked the beginning of modern Japanese history. For centuries, Japan had been ruled by the shogunate, which changed when European statesmen convinced the Japanese to change their state to a constitutional monarchy. The Meiji Constitution formed the basis of this new government.

  • Emma Goldman was arrested for talking about birth control. (1916) Goldman was a staunch feminist and advocate of women's rights, and an extremely controversial figure in the early 1900s. She was arrested several times throughout her life, both for lecturing on birth control and handing out contraceptives as well as participating in anti-war protests.

  • Margaret Thatcher became the head of the Conservative party. (1975) Thatcher became a major force in British politics, and was eventually elected as the first female British Prime Minister. The Baroness Thatcher was also one of the longest-serving British Prime Ministers — she held the post for 11 years.

  • St. Bernadette claims she saw the Virgin Mary of Lourdes. (1858) St. Bernadette was 14 years old when the Virgin appeared to her at Lourdes and asked that a chapel be built on the site. Although her claims underwent a great deal of scrutiny, the chapel was built, and Bernadette lived the rest of her life as a nun before dying of ill health at age 35.

  • Nuclear weapons were outlawed in international waters. (1971) Over 70 countries signed the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, the first treaty to restrict the use of nuclear weapons in international waters. Among the signatories were the US, the USSR, the UK and Germany.

  • Thomas Edison was born (1847) Edison was an incredibly famous and influential inventor. Among his most famous inventions were the incandescent light bulb, direct current electric power distribution, and the gramophone.

  • The first gold record was presented. (1942) Jazz and big band leader Glenn Miller won the first gold record for Chattanooga Choo Choo.

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