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Eye of the Optimist-on this day in history

News around Christmas time often seems especially gloomy, especially considering armed conflicts. For instance, reports of escalations of violence in the Middle East seem to multiply at this time of year, as they most certainly are these days. I find myself avoiding news at this time of year.

However, one can find socially positive developments on the historical record on any day. Although what makes the news headlines is often the worst of humanity's experiences, there are always significant socially positive and redeeming events going on. You can even find them on the formal record that historians chalk up.

December 21

1844 At 8:00 p.m. On This Day, the Rochdale Pioneers commenced business at their co-operative, now a museum , on Toad Lane, Rochdale, thus starting the Co-operative movement, often referred to simply as the Co-op.

1846 Robert Liston, Scottish surgeon, used anaesthetic (ether) for the first time in a British operation, at University College Hospital, London, to perform an amputation of a leg. Liston was known as 'the fastest knife in the West End' at a time when speed was essential to reduce pain and improve the odds of survival of a patient.

1872 The Challenger expedition, when HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain George Nares, sailed from Portsmouth. The scientific exercise covered almost 70,000 nautical miles, laid the foundation of oceanography and more than 4,000 previously unknown species were discovered. The expedition was hailed as 'the greatest advance in the knowledge of our planet since the celebrated discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.'

1880 An act passed by the House of Keys on the Isle of Man granted women the vote, provided they were widows or spinsters with a property rated annually at £4 or over. The first opportunity to vote was in April, the following year. In 1901, Norwegian women were allowed to vote, but in local elections only.

 189118 students play 1st basketball game (Springfield College)

1906 - British Parliament pass two important pieces of social legislation: The Trades Disputes Bill, legalizing peaceful picketing, and The Workingmen's Compensation Act, broadening employers' liability for accidents.

19091st junior high school established (Berkeley Calif)

1912 - Denmark, Norway & Sweden declare neutrality in Comende war
1913 - 1st crossword puzzle (with 32 clues) printed in NY World
1914 - 1st feature-length silent film comedy "Tillie's Punctured Romance" released starring Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand and Charles Chaplin
1914 - 2,800 African miners strike at the Van Rhyn Deep mines in a bid to redress some of their grievances
1925Eisenstein's movie Potemkin premieres in Moscow

1923Nepal changes from British protectorate to independent nation*      1925Eisenstein's movie Potemkin premieres in Moscow
1958General Charles de Gaulle is elected President of France with an overwhelming majority. He is first President of the 5th Republic.

1932 - Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, 1st joint movie (Flying Down to Rio)
1933 Dried human blood serum 1st prepared, Univ of Pennsylvania

1933 Fox signs Shirley Temple, 5, to a studio contract

1948 - State of Eire (formerly Irish Free State) declares its independence
1964Great Britain’s House of Commons votes to ban the death penalty.1965Four pacifists are indicted in New York for burning draft cards.1969American draft evaders gather for a holiday dinner in Montreal, Canada.

1973Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, US & USSR meet in Geneva

1976UN General Assembly passes a resolution declaring 1979-Year of Child

1985Heart's "Heart," album goes #1

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