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History in February: It’s the month of Valentine’s Day, usually the month of Ash Wednesday – hence Pancake Tuesday – and every four years, the 29th of February, when women traditionally can propose to the man of their choice. But what else has enlivened February over the years? Headstuff History makes some selections:
On February the …
1st, 2003: The US space shuttle Columbia disintegrared on its return flight to earth, while re-entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members on board, five men and two women.
2nd, 1887: the ground hog day tradition begins, at the little town of Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The first appearance of the small brown “hog” after winter is seen as a sign of spring. The ground hog myth was globalised through the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.
9th, 1964: The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, recorded in New York City. Ed Sullivan read out a telegram of good wishes to the group, signed “Elvis and the Colonel”. George Harrison asked, deadpan: “Elvis who?”
11th, 1990: Nelson Mandela released from prison after 27 years. Nobody who witnessed it will forget the sight of Mandela striding through the gates of Victor Prison in Cape Town, walking towards his destiny as president of an apartheid-free South Africa.
14th, 1278: The original Valentine, a priest persecuted by the Romans, executed.This unfortunate, whose bones lie in the Carmelite church on Whitefriar St, Dublin, who gave his name to the international celebration of romantic love. One pleasing legend claims that Val left a note for the daughter of his jailer, who had been kind to him, signed “From your Valentine”.
20th, 1985: The Irish government approves the sale of contraceptives. Up until 1979, Irish law prohibited the importation and sale of contraceptives. In a 1973 case, McGee v. The Attorney General, the Supreme Court found that a constitutional right to marital privacy covered the use of contraceptives.
21st, 1965: Former Black Muslim leader Malcolm X (1925-1965) was shot and killed while delivering a speech in a ballroom in New York City. A young black man named Thomas Hagan was eventually jailed for the murder, and served 44 years, being released in 2010.
22nd, 2011: Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which killed 185 people and injured several thousand.
25th, 1964: Upstart challenger Cassius Clay defeated world champion Sonny Liston in the seventh round of their fight at Miami Beach, Florida. It was a technical knockout, but Clay, known later as Muhammad Ali, had predicted he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.
February Birthday Boy
And among the notables born in February, James Joyce, one of Ireland’s greatest writers, on February 2nd, 1882. Joyce left Ireland, with his wife Nora Barnacle, in 1904. His last visit home was in 1912, and he died in 1941, in Zurich where he had fled to avoid the German invasion of Paris.
Sources: history.com, The James Joyce Centre, cnn.com, historyplace.com,Wikipedia.
Featured Image: AP Image