Thursday, January 25, 2018

Hail Columbia


What is more representative of the American ‘soul’ than the love of liberty? After all, the desire to be free of British rule is the reason America exists. So it is not surprising that America’s quest for independence, required a symbol that would represent this love of freedom.

Although a mere eagle or a mythical phoenix would have done the basic job, the new Colonies realized that they needed a more inspiring symbol to do justice to this entirely new endeavor.

They turned to the practice that was en vogue in Europe at the time. Nations and even entire continents were represented by female figures. France had its Marianne, England had Britania and Germany had Germania. Why not depict America with an equally inspiring lady?

This practice dates back to the Romans, who revered certain values, known as Virtues. They had a slew of Goddesses to whom they attributed these virtues, which they in turn tried to live up to and put up as examples for the ‘domus’ (the common people). Some of those Virtues were Hope (Spes), Justice (Justicia), Piety (Pietas), Courage (Virtus) and especially Libertas, the Goddess of Freedom.

The Colonies were in great need of an image that would represent this virgin, unspoiled country. An image that would create a national identity different from the former mother country. They turned to the Roman Goddess Libertas for inspiration and it was Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who, in 1697 suggested that America’s Colonies be called Columbina, a feminization of Christopher Columbus. Thus Lady Columbia was borne.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Grandmother in Training


My friend Karen is a grandmother. She insisted on being there during her grandson’s delivery, but for some reason, her daughter said it would be better if she spent the $3000 airfare on a vacation with her husband in Hawaii instead. ‘But I can give such useful advice’, Karen said. After all, she had been through it three times! Ok, so maybe her daughter was right. In Karen’s days, not even husbands were allowed in the delivery room.

She was a bit disappointed, she told me, when her daughter didn’t take her advice on naming her grandson. ‘What kind of name is Redmond’, she said. ‘His hair isn’t red’. But no matter how sensible her suggestion was, to name her grandson Gregory (after her own father), it fell on deaf ears.

Since Gregory’s (I mean Redmond’s) birth, Karen likes to pay her daughter surprise visits, and give her the opportunity to spend quality time together. But last time her daughter got upset and said that Karen should call first to ask if it was convenient to just show up like that. ‘Well, what’s more important; grandma’s visit or their precious schedule’, Karen told her. Read more...