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1729: Empress Catherine II of Russia, aka Catherine the Great
Catherine was born on this day in the Julian calendar (O.S.). She was the most renowned and the longest-ruling… [More] female leader of Russia, reigning until the age of 67. She was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia as and came to power following a coup d’état and the assassination of her husband, Peter III, at the end of the Seven Years’ War. Russia was revitalized under her reign, growing larger and stronger than ever and becoming recognized as one of the great powers of Europe. [Less]
1860: Theodor Herzl
Herzl was an Ashkenazi Jewish Austro-Hungarian who was the father of modern political Zionism and,… [More] hence, the State of Israel. After a brief stint in the legal profession, he became a journalist and worked in literature. As the Paris correspondent for Neue Freie Presse, Herzl followed the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious anti-Semitic incident in France. The “hopeless” situation of Jews in Europe had a profound effect on him. Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote “Der Judenstaat,” (The Jewish State), in which he laid out the reasons for the Jewish people to leave Europe either for Argentina or Palestine. The book was immediately controversial but did receive support from many. He went on to hold many meetings with Ottoman and European leaders and rallied for the creation of a Jewish state. He died before seeing the Uganda plan fail — and a commitment to a future state in Palestine solidified. [Less]
1895: Lorenz Hart
Hart was the lyricist-half of the famed Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart. Some of his more… [More] famous lyrics include “Blue Moon,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Mountain Greenery,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Manhattan,” “Where or When,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “I Could Write a Book”, “This Can’t Be Love”, and “With a Song in My Heart.” He was born in Harlem, NYC to Jewish immigrants. Notable singers who have performed and recorded the duo’s songs have included Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, and Carly Simon. [Less]