" We love flattery even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of importance enough to be courted. "
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back in the day


11-Year-Old Grace Bedell Urges Abraham Lincoln to Grow a Beard

A few weeks before Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the US, 11-year-old Grace Bedell sent him a letter urging him to grow a beard to win over voters. Bedell claimed that "all the ladies like whiskers" and would urge their husbands to vote for a bearded Lincoln. Days later, Lincoln drafted a noncommittal response in which he wondered whether such a change in appearance would be well received. Within months, he was sporting his now-iconic beard. What did he say when he later met Bedell?




The guqin is an ancient Chinese stringed instrument of the zither family that originated thousands of years ago. Throughout Chinese history, it was often associated with scholars, and it is said to have been played by Confucius. The guqin has remained symbolic of Chinese heritage and was featured during the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and a recording of its music was even included on the Voyager Golden Record that was sent into space. What does its name mean?

Born on a day like today


Marie Carmichael Stopes

A Scottish paleobotanist whose first marriage was annulled—and allegedly never consummated—Stopes went on to publish a controversial yet highly influential sex manual, Married Love, in 1918. Thereafter, she became a pioneer in the field of family planning, opening the first birth-control clinic in the British Empire in 1921. Stopes helped break down taboos and improve women's reproductive health, but her support of what field of reproductive science has somewhat marred her reputation?

Last updated on Tuesday, 15th October 2013

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