Jan. 14, 2000


by Jane Kenyon

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: January 14, 2000

Poems: "Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems published by Graywolf Press.

It's the birthday of columnist Maureen Dowd, born in Washington, D.C. (1952), the daughter of a policeman. She's the author of the 'Liberties ' column from the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

It's the birthday of novelist Mary Robison, born in Washington, D.C. (1949)—her father an attorney, her mother a psychologist. Growing up in Ohio among 5 brothers and 2 sisters, she had a chaotic time. In her teens, she ran away twice—once making her way to Florida in search of Jack Kerouac. Then (as she later told an interviewer) rather than going to college, she "fell in and out of marriage, had two daughters, was bad and wild and had to be kept sedated much of the time." She didn't think of herself as a serious writer until she earned a master's degree in writing at Johns Hopkins University (1977). Two years later her first collection of short stories was published: Days (1979)—20 stories, of which 8 had already appeared in The New Yorker. She has published two other collections of stories, as well as the novels, Oh! (1981) and Subtraction (1991).

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Tillie Olsen, born in Omaha, Nebraska (1913). She's best known for the author of the novel Silences, and the short story, "Tell Me a Riddle."

It's the birthday of federal judge J. Skelly Wright, born in New Orleans (1911)—who, although he had begun his judicial career as a hard-line segregationist, was instrumental in enforcing the desegregation of New Orleans public schools. His change of heart began at a party where he saw black and white blind people being segregated.

It's the birthday of author Emily Hahn, born in St. Louis (1905), who wrote 54 books and more than 200 articles for The New Yorker magazine on such diverse topics as her adventures in the Far East before World War Two, D.H. Lawrence, and apes. She died three years ago, at the age of 92. Two months before she died, she had her first poem published in the magazine.

It's the birthday of novelist John (Roderigo) Dos Passos, born in Chicago (1896), author of the U.S.A. Trilogy.

It's the birthday of illustrator and author Hugh Lofting, born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England (1886). He invented a special animal doctor, Dr. Dolittle, who could speak with animals—and featured him in stories, complete with his own illustrations, which he sent home to his kids from the front during World War I. After the war, his wife persuaded him to send some samples to a publisher, who immediately accepted The Story of Dr. Dolittle (1920).

On this date in 1794, the first successful Caesarean section was performed by a Virginia doctor, Jessee Bennett, operating on his own wife, Elizabeth. He had asked another doctor to assist him—but, based on their chance of success, the man had declined to take part. Instead, Dr. Bennett was aided by two slaves, who held his wife down on a rough plank table while he operated. The closest thing he could offer as an anesthetic was laudanum [LAW-dun-um]—opium dissolved in alcohol—to dull her senses.

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