December 21st is the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In Part 1, we commemorate acts of boldness from Roger Williams to Plymouth Rock to Apollo, as well as the tragedy at Lockerbie and the fall of the Soviet Union.
In Part 2, we cover significant debuts and milestones in the arts and some legendary birthdays.
1879: A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” premiered at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen.
The play is significant for its critical attitude toward 19th century marriage norms. It aroused great controversy at the time,as it concludes with the protagonist, Nora, leaving her husband and children because she wants to discover herself. Ibsen was inspired by the belief that “a woman cannot be herself in modern society,” since it is “an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.” Its ideas can also be seen as having a wider application: Michael Meyer argued that the play’s theme is not women’s rights, but rather “the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.
In 2006, the centennial of Ibsen’s death, A Doll’s House held the distinction of being the world’s most performed play.
UNESCO has inscribed Ibsen’s autographed manuscripts of A Doll’s House on the Memory of the World Register in 2001, in recognition of their historical value.
1925: Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein’s film “Battleship Potemkin” premiered in Moscow. The film presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime. Battleship Potemkin has been called one of the most influential propaganda films of all time and was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.
One of the most celebrated scenes in the film is the massacre of civilians on the Odessa Steps (also known as the Primorsky or Potemkin Stairs). This scene has been described as one of the most influential in the history of cinema, because it introduced concepts of film editing and montage to cinema.
1937: Snow White
Premier of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” the first feature-length color and sound cartoon.
1946: Its a Wonderful Life
Frank Capra’s Christmas classic “Its a Wonderful Life” premiers.
2012: Gangman Style
Gangman Style becomes first video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube.
Jane Fonda (1937)
Fonda, the daughter of Henry Fonda and brother of Peter Fonda, is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou. She won two Academy Awards, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and received an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in her fifty plus years as an actress.
Chris Evert (1954)
Chris Evert is one of the greatest tennis players of all-time. She won 18 Grand Slam singles championships and three doubles titles. She was the year-ending World No. 1 singles player in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1981. Overall Evert won 157 singles championships and 29 doubles titles. Evert reached 34 Grand Slam singles finals, more than any player, man or woman, in the history of professional tennis.
In Grand Slam singles play Evert won a record seven championships at the French Open and a record six championships at the US Open. Evert’s career winning percentage in singles matches of 90.05% (1309–145) is the highest in the history of tennis, for men or women. On clay courts, her career winning percentage in singles matches of 94.05% (316–20) remains a WTA record.
Evert has been president of the Women’s Tennis Association for 11 years, 1975–76 and 1983-91. She was awarded the Philippe Chartier award and inducted into the hall of fame. In later life Evert was a coach and is now an analyst for ESPN.