Yesterday (June 5th 2019) was not only Enela Camero Piscopia’s 373rd Birthday, the date is also dedicated to two national celebrations: Global Running Day and National Environment Day. Something also incredibly important about the first few days of June, other than the fact that the sun is beginning to warm up and Love Island has started, is that the 4th of June is celebrated as National Hug Your Cat Day. Now, until today, I wasn’t aware of the existence of National Hug Your Cat Day but, weirdly, I spent a considerable amount of the holiday trying to persuade my big sister to adopt a kitten. Despite the fact that fate was obviously working on my side, she said no. Anyway, let’s start with the legend of Enela Camero Piscopia, shall we?
Born in the Palazzo Loredan in Venice on the 5th June 1646, Elena was a product of an illegitimate relationship between a peasant, Zanetta Boni, and Gianbattista Cornaro-Piscopia, a Venetian nobleman. Due to the fact that, reasonably, of course, Venetian law barred illegitimate children of nobles from any privilege the family might have, she did not have a promising start to life. However, despite her hardship, Elena managed to not only become one of the first women to go to university, but was the very first woman to be awarded with a doctorate. Elena Camero Piscopia was born 373 years ago. She was awarded her degree on 25th June 1678. One hundred and twenty four thousand, four hundred and ninety seven days later, women are still being awarded for being the first of their sex to achieve something. For example, in 2019, Karen Uhlenbeck was the first woman to win the Abel Nobel Prize for mathematics. In the third episode of the second series of Fleabag, Kristen Scott Thomas describes the ‘Best Woman in Business’ award her character has just received as "infantilising bollocks,”. "It’s ghettoising. It’s a subsection of success. It’s the f*****g children’s table of awards." It’s difficult not to question the progress of our society when wonderful people are, like Enela Piscopia, still the first of their kind to achieve accolades and milestones.
Another astounding person who was a first of her kind was Katherine Virginia Switzer. In 1967, Katherine was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant. Subsequently, in 1972, women were able to officially run in the famous US marathon. As it is global running day today, let us all take note of the dedication and determination it took for Katherine Switzer to smash the patriarchy and push through the status quo, even when marathon officials were trying to rip her bib off mid-race. Global running day is a worldwide celebration of running - be it fast, slow, alone, together, forwards, backwards - which aims to encourage everyone to move their bodies and make a difference. Whether it be making a difference to your own motivation and fitness or encouraging others to join you and feel great, I, for one, am going to consider taking advantage of the global support today and move just a little bit more than usual.
It was National Environment Day yesterday too, so, rather than bitch about what we are failing to do as a global community to save our habitat, let’s talk about a very considerable recent victory. In a ground breaking climate change case, an environmental organisation, ClientEarth, are acting on behalf of a group of indigenous Australians from the Torres Strait region to make a complaint against the Australian government for failing to act on climate change. The Torres Strait Islands are an incredibly beautiful and historically important group of islands that are at sever risk from the impacts of climate change. The water is rising rapidly, flooding homes, lands and important cultural sites. Not only this, the rise in temperature is bleaching coral and acidifying the ocean. To date, the Australian government has no policies in place to meet its emissions reduction target and continues to pander to the needs of the fossil fuel industries. This case is holding the government responsible by alleging that the effects of Australia’s insufficient plans to reduce greenhouse gasses and its failure to put in place funding for coastal defences constitutes a violation of human rights. Although a case like this has not previously been successful, they are becoming more and more common and, necessarily, will raise awareness and begin to change the way governments look at their role in protecting the planet. Perhaps this is a small victory but, on National Environment Day, at least litigation is moving in an exciting direction and, considering I wasn’t able to convince my sister to get a cat, made my Wednesday just that bit better.
Original image, property of Vintage Child.