March 3rd 1798 Dorothy Wordsworth, while staying at Alfoxden with William, notes in her diary that today she went to the shoemaker’s while William lay under the trees until she returned. They then ‘went to the secluded farm house in search of eggs’. What kind she does not say – nor whether they we produce of the farm or ‘gifts of nature’.
March 4th 1861 Mary Boykin Chesnut, the wife of an American Confederate general notes in her journal: I have seen a Negro woman sold upon the block at auction. I was walking. The woman on the block overtopped the crown. I felt faint, seasick. The creature looked so like my good little Nancy. She was a bright mulatto, with a pleasant face. She was magnificently gotten up in her silks and satins. She seemed delighted with it all, sometime ogling the bidders, sometimes looking coy and modest; but her mouth never relaxed from its expanded grin of excitement. I dare say the poor thing knew who would buy her. My very soul sickened. It was too dreadful. I tried to reason. ‘You know how women sell themselves and are sold in marriage, from queens downwards. You know what the bible says about slavery, and marriage. Poor women, poor slaves.’
March 5th 1961 Newspapers carried a story that aeroplane maker Handley Page had plans for a ‘flying boomerang’ to carry 150 passengers at 1,500 mph sideways. Scientists, it was said, had worked out that a plane flying sideways sets up less resistance than one going forward, giving supersonic flight with twice the load or half the cost! Handley Page certainly had a good ‘practice’ model with their Victor bomber which had a futuristic design and was capable of supersonic flight.
March 6th 1853 saw the first public performance of Verdi’s La Traviata (‘The Fallen Woman’) – at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. It appears to have not quite gone to plan with intermittent jeering from the audience. The initial target was soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli. In the lead role of Violetta she was considered too overweight and too old – she was 38 – to play a young woman dying of consumption. The day after Verdi wrote to a friend “La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers’? Time will tell.” I think we know the answer now.
March 7th 1987 was the day that one of cricket’s best batsmen of all time became the first player to score more than 10,000 runs in Test matches. That man was Sunil Gavaskar. In 125 test matches he scored a total of 10,122 runs comprising 34 centuries and 45 other scores over 50. His highest test score was against the West Indies in India in 1984/5 season. He hit 236 not out: it was his 30th test century in his 99th test match.
March 8th 1910 was the day when, in Copenhagen, ‘International Women’s Day’ was formally established at the International Socialist Women’s Conference. Its initial aim was to promote women’s rights – particularly at work and in politics – and to seek to achieve universal women’s suffrage.
March 9th In July 1439 England’s King Henry VI had banned kissing. He said it was to prevent the spread of disease but everyone seems to have carried on as normal. On this day in 1562 Naples took this prohibition to another level, bringing in a death penalty for anyone caught kissing in Public. Again it seems to have been a case of public health rather than morality. A plague was spreading through Europe and City leaders were doing anything in their power to blunt the epidemic. Unfortunately, the law seemed to do little to prevent the spread of the plague, which ultimately claimed the lives of large swaths of Europe.