Wednesday 7 November 2018

Reasons to Be Cheerful 22

They say you can't change minds by changing the law, but the Romans in Britain outlawed human sacrifice and we no longer approve of it. Women are no longer presented with “ladies’ menus” without prices, and you can't buy a can of lager with a naked woman printed on it. But people with depression are still being told “take a glass half-full attitude” and “change your mindset”. And can we outlaw giving puberty-delaying hormones to children “in their best interests”?

17th century The torture of suspected witches is banned. (Executions for witchcraft declined as rules of evidence became more strict.)

1678 Elena Piscopia becomes first woman Phd in Europe, in Padua.

1778 In December 1778 Marie Antoinette had a royal baby. She was required to give birth in public to ensure a transparent succession. Hundreds of courtiers were present. Two people climbed on furniture to get a better view. Such an appalling experience that the King banned public birth. (Dan Snow)

1795 The government introduces a heavy tax on hair powder, ending the 18th century fashion for wigs.

1834 The 1752 Murder Act... required bodies of convicted murderers to be either publicly dissected or gibbeted. Between 1752 and 1832, 134 men were hanged in chains. It was formally abolished in 1834. (Atlas Obscura)
1851 Window tax repealed in the UK.
1849 Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the United States.
1870 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson becomes the first woman to qualify as a doctor in England.

1878-1962 Frances Glessner Lee was the first female police captain in the US, and is regarded as the "mother of forensic science". She created miniature dioramas of crime scenes, and helped to found the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University. 

1888 Slavery abolished in Brazil.
1892 Rowton House, the first hostel for homeless men, opened in Vauxhall, London.
1918 The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act allows women to be elected into Parliament.
1922 Soviet Russia became one of the first countries in Europe to decriminalise homosexuality.

1923 British women are given equal divorce rights with men for the first time under the Matrimonial Causes Act. The only ground for divorce is adultery.

The Anglican Church cautiously accepted artificial contraception in the 1930s at a conference of bishops. (BBC)

1930 Mixed bathing introduced at the Serpentine.
1937 Dance marathons banned in Washington State.
1960 First Nations in Canada get the right to vote.

1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike becomes Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, the first non-hereditary female head of state or government in the world.

1962 All Aboriginal Australians get the vote.
1964 Local councils are required to provide libraries.
1973 Women allowed on the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange.

It wasn’t until October 1946... that the Civil Service marriage bar was abolished – a ruling that prohibited married women from joining the Civil Service and required women civil servants to resign when they married... Incidentally, the marriage bar for the Foreign Office wasn’t lifted until 1973
(High Buildings, Low Morals, Rob Baker)

1977 Charlotte Brew is the first female rider to compete in the Grand National.
Late 70s The UK stops virginity-testing female immigrants.1980s Divorced people are allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
In 2017 women hung wedding dresses along Beirut seafront in protest at a law allowing rapists to escape punishment if they married their victim. The law was eventually repealed after pressure from Arab women's groups
1990 Married women in the UK are taxed separately. 
1992 Shamanism is protected by Mongolia’s constitution. 1993 Homosexuality decriminalised in Ireland.

Age-of-consent laws were historically only applied when a female was younger than her male partner. By 2015 ages of consent were made gender-symmetric. Until the late 20th century many states had provisions requiring that the teenage girl must be of previous "chaste character" in order for the sexual conduct to be considered criminal. In 1998 Mississippi became the last state to remove this provision from its code. (Wikipedia)

1998 Treason no longer incurs the death penalty.
1999 Independent schools become subject to inspection.
2000 Parental right to discipline is abolished in Germany.
2000 UK bans fur farming.
2005 Downside Abbey school admits girls.

2008 Poisonous, flammable mothballs banned in Europe. (But you can still get them from the internet, and once we Brexit we'll repeal all these nonsensical laws that restrict our freedom.)


1786 Ireland’s last wolf shot.

1870 Riot at Surgeons' Hall Riot in Edinburgh when  women try to sit an Anatomy exam. And in 1897 Students rioted in the streets of Cambridge in protest at the admission of women to the university. (They lost, but in recent memory, we have seen similar scenes.)

1920 In Mississippi it was a criminal offence to even make "suggestions in favour of social equality" between races.

In the 1940s, when women married foreign nationals they surrendered their British citizenship and assumed their husband's nationality.

1838-59 Lower-caste women in the southern state of Kerala in India fought against the “breast tax”. They had to pay it, or go topless as a sign of respect to higher castes (the Channar Revolt).

1960s 3,400 plus US Native American women were forcibly sterilised.

It's been 60 years since the introduction of life peers meant that women could enter the House of Lords – yet in 2018 only 26% of Members are women.

The use of homeopathy has been declining within the NHS, to the point that in 2017 it finally proposed a ban on prescriptions... Researchers, led by Ben Goldacre, senior clinical research fellow at the University of Oxford, found that determined GPs, in over 600 surgeries, were still, regardless of the official “rubbish” verdict, prescribing homeopathic remedies in 2016-2017. (Catherine Bennett)

In 2018, Bristol and North and South Somerset are the last NHS areas where homeopathy funding is “under review”. All other regions have ceased funding it. Update! August 7 2018 Bristol NHS will no longer fund homeopathic remedies, “finally ending the vestigial remnants of a once large homeopathic presence”, says @lecanardnoir.

Conversely, Quackery tourism is becoming a thing, as is crowdfunding quack cancer remedies.

In India, after the Sepoy Rebellion in the 1850s, multicultural relationships were outlawed, except for members of the army. (RP)

In 2018, it’s illegal for Iranian women to dance in the street – but there’s a youtube video protest.

2018 The $70 billion [baby milk] industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding. Overall, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in developing nations. (

2018 A Tokyo medical school admits changing results to exclude women. The University manipulated test scores for more than a decade to ensure more men became doctors (Guardian)

When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. (

A "Papist" could not be guardian to any child, nor hold land, nor possess arms. He could not hold a commission in the army or navy, or be a private soldier. No Catholic could hold any office of honour or emolument in the state, or be a member of any corporation, or vote for members of the Commons, or, if he were a peer, sit or vote in the Lords. Almost all these personal disabilities were equally enforced by law against any Protestant who married a Catholic wife [Catholic law would have the issue be Catholics]. It was a felony, with transportation, to teach the Catholic religion, and treason, as a capital offence, to convert a Protestant to the Catholic faith.

For most of its history, Sweden was a rather authoritarian society. A web of formality and obligation, codified only partly by law, kept everyone in their place and very conscious of their relative social position. Personal liberties were strictly curtailed. From 1919 to 1955, alcohol was rationed compulsorily, with the quantities doled out varying by age, class, and sex. (Men were allowed 3 liters a month. Married women had no ration at all, but unmarried women could, if they were lucky, get half a liter of spirits every three months, though only 1 in 10 women had ration books.) And until 1951, it was technically illegal to be an atheist (though one could choose from among 11 officially approved beliefs). (Andrew Brown,

2018 In the UK, religious organisations are exempt from anti-discrimination and equal pay laws.

2018 Twenty-two US states still allow corporal punishment in school: 15 expressly permit it while another seven do not prohibit it.


March 8 2018 On Monday, Israel’s Attorney General revised decades of state policy when he removed part of the Western Wall plaza from the authority of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment and declared progressive Jewish prayer at its southern end to be a fundamental right. (Yair Rosenberg)

Trinidad and Tobago plan to decriminalise homosexuality after a judge rules that the colonial-era law banning it is unconstitutional.

BBC News reports that teen pregnancies have fallen by 50% in the last ten years. It's because teenagers spend more time with their families these days, they say. (Contraception? Sex ed? Information from the internet on smartphones?)

A New York State law forces all domestic abusers to surrender their guns.
The UK proposes to ban “conversion therapy” and an Irish MP wants to ban it in Ireland.
The giant panda is no longer an endangered species.
The Isle of Man scraps the fitness-for-work test for the disabled.

are allowed on the Senate floor in the US.
First successful prosecution for forced marriage in the UK.
The Church of Scotland is drafting new laws to allow same-sex marriages in church.
Cuba will allow gay marriage in the first change to Castro-era laws.

Sumo wrestling
could lose its tax-free status unless it allows women in the ring.
Jersey introduces same-sex marriage.
Sweden bans religion from schools other than as a study subject.
Scotland is introducing a minimum price for alcohol.

US Boy Scouts are dropping the word 'boy' from their name as girls prepare to join.
Delaware is first US state to ban child marriage.
Gurkhas prepare to admit women – but standards of toughness are high.
No-fault divorce mooted in the UK.

Ireland, France, Germany and Bulgaria ban fracking.
Academy schools are failing.
The Irish Republic says women from the North will be allowed access to abortion.
600 rabbis back LGBT rights, in response to 200 rabbis who condemned gay 'perverts'.

An unmarried mother in Antrim gets widowed parents’ allowance.
Indian’s supreme court decriminalises homosexuality.
Scotland to debate a bill banning smacking, likely to pass.
Dr David Nutt suggests that MPs should be breathalysed before voting.
Stella Creasy puts forward an amendment to the Voyeurism Bill that would criminalise misogyny.

Sadiq Khan reselected as Labour's mayoral candidate.
Big Brother cancelled.

Universities are cancelling freshers’ week and reducing night club hours, organising café crawls and pottery demos instead. Aberdeen, St Andrew and Chester universities introduce booze-free student halls.

In October alone...
Washington State has abolished capital punishment – the 20th state to do so.
The Romanian Orthodox church fails to get gay marriage banned.
The EU votes to ban single-use plastics.
Ethiopia votes in first woman leader.
Ireland holds referendum on whether to decriminalise blasphemy (decriminalised in UK 2008)
India’s supreme court rules adultery is not a crime (striking down a 158-year-old law).

Teenagers’ drinking falls by 80%. (Teenagers say “Drugs are easier to get now”, but let’s hope they’re joking. Some of the time.)

Ruth Davidson becomes the first party leader to have a baby while in office.
UK plans to make it possible to get married anywhere.
All frontline military roles are now open to women in the UK.

Formula One organisers have announced walk-on grid girls will no longer be used before races.
Norway announces it will phase out fur farming by 2024.
The UK has banned plastic microbeads in products.
Wolf spotted in Belgium – first for a hundred years.
Hong Kong bans ivory trade.
Wales bans sky lanterns.

Ulster University student council votes to remove emeritus professor status from eugenicist Richard Lynn.

Israel lifts ban on black Palestinian goats.
Tasmania is the first state to return a female-majority parliament.
Four female jockeys competed at Cheltenham – the highest number ever.
India rules sex with a child bride is always rape.
Pakistan employs its first transgender newcaster.
Scotland and Wales allow voting from 16 in local elections.

And in November...
Tonight's wins include:
~@NancyPelosi is Speaker again
~More than 100 women elected to the House, including:

~3 lesbians  
~1st Native American woman in 242yrs
~1st Muslim woman
~two youngest women ever


~1st gay male governor and 1st bisexual woman governor

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