October 21, 2021

#ThrowbackThursday – 21 October

From a typing speed record to the birthday of a film legend, take a look at these five events which went down in history on 21 October:

1854 – The Lady With the Lamp Goes Off to Crimea

When reports from war-torn Crimea outlined that British soldiers were receiving inadequate medical care, 39 women were sent there to offer their assistance – among them was a woman named Florence Nightingale.

An educated woman who had trained to become a nurse, Nightingale arrived two weeks later at the Scutari Hospital in the Crimea, where she managed to completely improve conditions.

From tending the sick and wounded (as well as their families), to overseeing kitchen and laundry facilities, Nightingale became a beloved figure at the hospital. Also, her tendency to walk through the wards nightly in case the patients needed her aid earned her the nickname “The Lady With the Lamp”.

Two years later, the war ended, and Nightingale returned home to Britain, where she was welcomed as a celebrated figure. For the rest of her life, she dedicated herself to bringing about social reform in health care.

1918 – NYC Woman Breaks Typing Speed Record

Writing 100 words in one minute can be tiring; writing 1 000 words in 30 minutes can be taxing; but to write 8 000 words in one hour seems almost impossible.

But one Margaret Owen did just that in 1918: seated before a manual Underwood typewriter at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, the stenographer – seated among 40 others – typed for her life to become the new keyboard calisthenics champion.

At a rate of 136 words per minute, Owen typed a total of 8 000 words, thus setting a world record for typing speed. In her congratulatory speech, she said: “It is simply a question of nerve. It is not physically tiring. If I were to lose a few days from my practice, my work would fall off. Every morning and afternoon we are put through trial heats. We do nothing else. Every typewriter concern has its string of racer.”

1956 – Happy Birthday, Carrie Fisher

Today marks what would have been the 65th birthday of Carrie Fisher, a famous American actress and author who “Star Wars” fans know best as Princess Leia.

Born to actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher in 1956, she first began her acting career in the 1973 Broadway play, “Irene”. Four years later, she was cast as Princess Leia in “Star Wars: A New Hope” – an empowered heroine with a distinct cinnamon-bun hairstyle, the character launched Fisher into global stardom.

Throughout her adult life, Fisher battled substance abuse and struggled with bipolar disorder; she channelled these experiences into her writings – including the 1987 novel, “Postcards from the Edge” – and won critical acclaim for her candid, humorous and astute style.

In 2016, Fisher died at the age of 60 following a heart attack. Although she was gone too soon, she remains a beloved figure in both cinema and literature.

1966 – The Aberfan Disaster

It was an ordinary day in a village in Wales when tragedy struck, taking the lives of 144 people.

On the misty morning of 21 October, 300 000 cubic yards of coal sludge buried Pantglas Junior School and 19 houses. The sludge emanated from the Merthyr Vale coal mine, which was run by the National Coal Board (NCB); they lay in seven spoil tips – one of which lay at nearly four-metres tall – that overlooked the village from a hill.

That morning, the spoil tips collapsed and slid down the hill, engulfing the school and houses like a black cloak. Hundreds of people began digging into the sludge in a bid to rescue those trapped in the buildings. Bodies were identified at the local hospital, with asphyxiation or the impact of the engulfment stated as their causes of death.

A 1967 tribunal found the NCB at fault for the tragedy. Still, the board did not face any lasting repercussions, while the villagers of Aberfan experienced an aura of sadness, grief and trauma for years to come.

2019 – Nicki Minaj Puts a Ring on It

All eyes were on Nicki Minaj – at least, on her Instagram account – when she announced that she was now a married woman.

Since December 2018, the rapper had been dating her childhood friend, Kenneth Petty; eight months later, the couple had applied for a marriage license – for fans, they simply couldn’t wait to hear the wedding bells ringing.

So you can imagine how excited they were when Minaj took to Instagram on 22 October – posting a photo of a custom “Mr” and “Mrs” coffee mugs on a table, along with a white “Bride” baseball hat and a black “Groom” hat, she wrote in the caption: “Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty 10-21-19.”

Despite the ups and downs that they have endured during their marriage, Minaj and Petty remain as close as ever, and have since welcomed a little boy.