Happy Oregon Statehood Day…also known as V-Day or that other day

Today is a big day…

in 1859 Oregon officially became a state of the United States.

And thanks to Wikipedia and the New York Times we have a very extensive  list of other events that happened on this day throughout history. I will list a few that I think are interesting, but that will not be my main focus for today:

  • 270 – St. Valentine died marking Valentine’s Day
  • 842 – Charles the Bald and Louis the German swear the Oaths of Strasbourg in the French and German languages.
  • 1014 – Pope Benedict VIII crowns Henry of Bavaria, King of Germany and of Italy, as Holy Roman Emperor.
  • 1778 – The United States Flag is formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time, when French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte rendered a nine gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.
  • 1779 – American Revolutionary War: the Battle of Kettle Creek is fought in Georgia.
  • 1818 – Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist born (d. 1895)
  • 1847 – Anna Howard Shaw, American suffragette (d. 1919)
  • 1849 – In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes the first serving President of the United States to have his photograph taken.
  • 1852 – Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children, the first hospital providing in-patient beds specifically for children in the English-speaking world, is founded in London.
  • 1912 – Arizona is admitted as the 48th U.S. state.
  • 1920 – The League of Women Voters is founded in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1929 – Saint Valentine’s Day massacre: Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone’s gang, are murdered in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1943 – Maceo Parker, American musician born (P-Funk)
  • 1961 – Discovery of the chemical elements: Element 103, Lawrencium, is first synthesized at the University of California.
  • 1970 – Simon Pegg, British comedian and actor born
  • 1989 – Union Carbide agrees to pay $470 million to the Indian government for damages it caused in the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
  • 2011 – As a part of Arab spring, the 2011–2012 Bahraini uprising, a series of demonstrations, amounting to a sustained campaign of civil resistance, in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain begins.

A little Oregon history from the Oregon Blue Book.

Without enabling legislation from Congress, Oregonians voted in June 1857 to hold a constitutional convention. The delegates assembled in Salem during the summer and drafted a governing document. It was modeled on those of Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan. The constitution limited public debt and placed tight controls on banks and corporations. An agricultural people, the convention delegates argued, had little use for frivolous expenditures or unnecessary institutions. In the fall voters faced three questions. Did they approve the constitution? They voted yes. Did they want slavery? They voted 7,727 no and 2,645 yes. Did they want freed African-Americans to live in Oregon? They voted eight to one against permitting their residency.

[Also see the Oregon State Archives Web exhibit entitled Crafting the Oregon Constitution: Framework for a New State]

The actions in 1857 were predictable. Oregonians hungered for control of their own government and an end to the patronage appointments produced by shifting administrations in Washington, D.C. They also affirmed they did not want slavery in Oregon. The question of driving free African-Americans from the new state revealed resoundingly racist attitudes. They did not see freed slaves, Indians, or women standing equally before the law. In this Oregonians differed little from Thomas Jefferson. Architect of the Declaration of Independence and its gracefully worded affirmations of natural rights, Jefferson was a slave-owner all his adult life. He could not rise to the noble philosophy of personal freedom he articulated in the 1770s. Oregonians in 1857 appeared to have drunk from the same well.

In June, 1858, residents of the territory elected officials as defined by their new constitution. For months the fate of Oregon statehood floated on shifting political coalitions distrustful of changing the fragile balance of power in Congress. It was known Oregon would be a free state, yet its newly elected senators–Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith–were proslavery Democrats. Finally Congress acted and on February 14, 1859, President Buchanan signed the bill. Oregon joined the federal union. (Emphasis added)

I think this short piece can potentially shed light on how white Oregon still seems to be. It has been criticized as a open and friendly place welcoming diversity with few minorities or diversity. “Mind you the people are funky and do their own thing, they are a colorful people but where are all the people of color?” Oregon is 83.6% Caucasian and 1.8% Black (Oregon Census, 2010). In spite of this dodgy past and pasty present I would like to add that you can learn about all of this for free today at the Oregon Historical Societies Oregon History Museum. Once again however, I don’t want to digress, so moving right along…

February 14th is also the day around the country that college campuses prepare their annual performances of “the Vagina Monologues” – or at least when I was a college student in Oregon Portland Community College would put it on yearly, hence V-Day. V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women. Information from the organizations website declares V Day as a, “catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.” Because no matter how far women have come, especially in the western world, there is still so far to go! Especially in America, the land of the free where 60% of rapes will go unreported and 80% of rape victims are under 30 years of age and every two minutes someone in America is being raped (and 2/3 of those are by someone the victim knows) (RAINN). Rape and assault against women is still a forgotten issue.

If you have never seen the controversial production that was the initial catalyst for V Day, you should.

“Because He Liked to Look at it.”

“My Vagina is Angry”

“My Vagina is a Village”

says that [The Vagina Monologues has inspired “an army” of campus feminists who are “very elitist”]. There are 600 to 800 college campuses involved in The Vagina Monologues. It is in schools like Southern Methodist University, in community colleges in Tennessee and in African-American schools. It has also spread to 81 countries. It has been performed in villages in Africa and backwater towns in the Philippines. I once saw a production at Riker’s Island! So, if she wants to call it elitist, okay. (2006)

In an earlier interview, by Pamela Grossman for Salon.com in 2000, Ensler was asked about some of the backlash from some feminist groups and conservatives alike who called her brand of feminism “Outmoded” and “ravingly anti-male“.

I don’t think any brand of feminism is outmoded. I think the world is so desperate for feminism at this point, for the liberation of women, it’s mad to even think about how deep that need is. There are a few other people who have said, too, that the play is anti-male. I don’t really know what they mean. Is an examination of the condition of women anti-male?

I’m looking at the facts of rape and incest by men against women; I’m saying this is a serious issue that we need to deal with. If you want to call that “anti-man,” that’s one perception. I’m calling for an end to violence. I’m asking men and women to take responsibility for the eradication of women that’s going on in the planet right now, the amount of battery, burning, shooting, suffocating and annihilating of women in every country in the world that is so out of control. If calling attention to it and if demanding an end to it is seen as anti-male, I don’t know what to say.

I do know that the men I know who come to see “The Vagina Monologues” do not seem to think so. In fact, most men come up and say, “Thank you — I had no idea; I knew nothing about vaginas; thank you for inviting me into this world.” Also, I’d like to point out that there are many “Vagina Monologues” that treat men very lovingly — and to say that I have never been attacked by a man, in the press, for being anti-male. So that’s a fascinating thing. I believe that most men are embarrassed and ashamed of the amount of violence that’s happening, and when it’s talked about or dealt with, they feel relieved. In the college initiative all around the country, young men are deeply involved in productions of the show. And men have produced it everywhere I’ve been.

So, on that note I would like to close this post by not wishing you a romantic valentine but, a happy Oregon Statehood Day and a Happy Vagina Day too!

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