May 17th in (Feminist) History

rosalc3ada_castro_de_murguc3ada_por_luis_sellierOn this day in 1863, Rosalía de Castro published Cantares Gallegos, her book of poetry which was the first book ever published in the Galician language. Born in 1837, she is known as a key figure in the Galician romantic movement, also known as the Rexurdimento, or Renaissance. Galicia is an “autonomous community” of Spain, and in the past the Galician language had been replaced by Spanish, leaving it relegated to private use, or to the use of commoners. By Rosalía’s time, Galicia had become considered a language fit only for the ill-mannered and illiterate. But Rosalía– expected to only speak Spanish as a highly educated woman– decided to write her poetry in that language, rather than in Spanish, and in the process won herself the love of the Galician people.

Her poetry is most known otherwise for it’s use of saudade (in Galician), or an “almost ineffable combination of nostalgia, longing and melancholy”. Here is an example of one of her poems, in both Galician and English:

Rosalía was not just a poet, she was also a humanitarian who worked to help the poor and defenseless, was an opponent of any form of abuse of authority, and also defended women’s rights. Every year on this day, the day her book of poetry was published, Día das Letras Galegas (“Galician Literature Day”) is celebrated in the Autonomous Community of Galicia.

Also on this day…

• In 1903, the birth of Lena Levine, an American psychiatrist and gynecologist, and the director of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau of New York. She was prominent in the development of marriage counseling and birth control.
• In 1937, the birth of Hazel R. O’Leary, an American politician, and former United States Secretary of Energy, who is to-date the only woman or African American to serve as the Secretary of Energy.
• And in 2004, the first legal same-sex marriages in the U.S. were performed in the state of Massachusetts!!

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