Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 4 entries for this date: Richard Carlile , Hermione Gingold , John Malkovich and Kate Smurthwaite
Richard Carlile

Richard Carlile

On this date in 1790, freethinker and tireless free speech champion Richard Carlile was born in Ashburton, Devon, England. After attending charity schools, Carlile began working at 13. In 1813, Carlile moved to London. He was jailed for selling political satires in 1817. Carlile, a freethinking deist, then published an inexpensive version of The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, and the Deist, a pioneering and popular freethinking weekly. Carlile was prosecuted for blasphemy and seditious libel in 1819 by the Society for the Suppression of Vice. He became a cause celebre during two trials in the Guildhall where he defended himself. He was convicted and sentenced to pay £1500 and spend three years in prison. Carlile's prison stay was doubled after he refused to pay the fine. He spent 1819-1825 at Dorcester prison, where he published freethought tracts with wide circulation and influence, including reprints of freethinkers such as Voltaire, Shelley, Byron and Bentham.

He took over publication of the weekly Republican, a major freethought periodical with a circulation of 4,000 to 5,000, in 1822, also from prison. Carlile's wife, Jane, and sister and many supporters were imprisoned for disseminating Carlile's tracts. A campaign, called the "war of the shopmen," continued until Carlile, his workers and vendors were released. Carlile opened up a shop to print and promote freethought literature, and teamed up with "Rev." Robert Taylor in the late 1820s, on freethought speaking tours. Together, they opened the Rotunda in London, a hub of dissent. Both men were arrested and convicted of various blasphemies in 1831. Carlile continued organizing and writing from prison, with the help of Eliza Sharples, known as "Isis," who became his common law wife (or "moral mistress") after he separated from his first wife. Carlile spent more than a decade of his life in prison. Carlile's gallant fight was "the greatest fight ever waged for a free press and free speech," according to freethought biographer Joseph McCabe, lessening future prosecutions. His influence and cachet with other reformers gradually diminished and his final years were spent in great poverty. He is remembered for his pioneering support for birth control, women's suffrage and rights (which he called for in the 1820s), against child labor, for parliamentary reform and his one-man fight to free speech. D. 1843.

“The fable of a god or gods visiting the earth did not originate with Christianity.”

—— Richard Carlile, cited by Ira Cardiff in What Great Men Think about Religion, 1945

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Hermione Gingold

Hermione Gingold

On this date in 1897, Hermione Gingold, once dubbed “the funniest woman in the world,” was born in London. Her career started with childhood appearances on the British stage with a young Noel Coward. (Her mother, not impressed with Noel after inviting him to tea, warned Gingold: “You are never to ask that boy to tea again — he’ll come to a bad end.”) Gingold’s first stage role as a child was in the company of legendary stage actress Ellen Terry. Gingold (whose first name, Hermione, came from A Winter’s Tale) performed Shakespeare at London’s Old Vic, and made her name in comedic revues for the BBC, and on West End and Broadway. She often wrote her own material. A critic once observed, “She can turn a melting smile into a baring of fangs more outrageously than anyone I know except Groucho Marx.” The Grande Dame of vaudeville and theatre perfected awithering stare and deadpan delivery, and had a voice that was once described as “powdered glass in deep syrup.” She is best known for the unforgettable duet with Maurice Chevalier in “Gigi” (captured in only two takes), and for portraying Eulalie Shinn, the mayor’s wife, in the film version of “The Music Man.” Gingold originated the role of Madame Armfelt in “A Little Night Music” by Stephen Sondheim. Director Hal Prince told her his only concern in casting her was whether she could pull off acting like a 74-year-old woman. “But Mr. Prince,” she told him, “I am 74.” The ageless Gingold became the belle of Broadway at age 81 in “Side by Side with Sondheim.” In Walt Disney’s animated film, “Gay Pureee,” she and Judy Garland provided the voices of the female cats (lyrics by Yip Harburg). Gingold recounts one fan recognizing her on the streets of New York and saying, “It is Hermione Gingold, isn’t it? You’ll never guess how we recognized you — by your face.” In How to Grow Old Disgracefully, her posthumously-published and very funny autobiography, Gingold boasted that her last great love, with a man 55 years her junior, lasted into her eighties. She was the postmistress of one-liners, recounts her friend Anne Clements Eyre in the prologue of Gingold’s autobiography. When a young man introduced himself to Gingold by saying he was in public relations, she quipped: “Oh I prefer to keep my relations private.” Eyre asked Gingold to be a godmother: “It’s only Anne,” Gingold wrote, “who would choose a godmother who isn’t religious, hates children, and lives three thousand miles away.” Gingold mentions several places in her autobiography that she “didn’t believe in God.” D. 1987.

Photo by Allan Warren and OTRS under CC 3.0

“Although we weren’t brought up to be any particular religion, we were taught to say our prayers. I remember one that ended, ‘Thy glorious kingdom, which is for ever and ever. Amen.’ These words made me scream, “I don’t want to be anywhere for ever and ever. It’s too much.” 

—Hermione Gingold in her biography How to Grow Old Disgracefully, 1988

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

John Malkovich

John Malkovich

On this date in 1953, actor John Gavin Malkovich was born in Christopher, Ill. He attended Eastern Illinois University, Illinois State University. Malkovich joined Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater in 1976. He won an Obie for his role in "True West," a 1983 play. He appeared in the Broadway revival of "Death of a Salesman" with Dustin Hoffman in 1984, and won an Emmy for the TV movie version. His first film work was as an extra in Robert Altman's "A Wedding" (1978). His real screen debut was as a blind man in "Places of the Heart" (1984). Other films include "The Killing Fields" (1984), "The Glass Menagerie" (1987), "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "Portrait of a Lady" (1996), "Con Air" (1997), "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998), "Being John Malkovich" (1999,  "Johnny English" (2003), "Burn After Reading" (2008), which co-starred Brad Pitt and "Changeling" (2008), which starred Angelina Jolie. In an interview with Telegraph Magazine, Malkovich described himself as an atheist (The Age[Australia], April 25, 2003).

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by S_Bukley, Shutterstock.com

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Kate Smurthwaite

Kate Smurthwaite

On this date in 1975, comedian Kate Smurthwaite was born in London. After growing up in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, she studied mathematics at Lincoln College, Oxford, from 1994-97 and then worked in London and Japan as a convertible bond researcher for UBS Wartburg, an investment bank. She started performing comedy professionally in 2004 and describes herself on her website as "a left-wing, feminist, atheist stand-up comedian and political activist." (To wit: “Isn’t it weird when atheists call their child Christian? Surely it should be Godfrey?”) She's a regular contributor to mainstream print publications and to BBC and Sky News television and radio shows, both as a writer and commentator. In 2014 her science show "The Evolution Will Be Televised" was nominated for an award by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, a group that fosters business models that don't have to rely entirely on donations from nonprofits and government funding. She has also taught stand-up at the City Academy in London.
BBC Radio 4's "Four Thought" series in 2012 included a 15-minute program written and performed by Smurthwaite about sexist humor and sexism in comedy. She later responded to former BBC director of television TV Danny Cohen’s suggestion to have at least one woman on panel shows by calling it a highly progressive idea — if he’d had it in the 1950s: "This is 2016. There’s absolutely no reason why panel shows can’t have 50 percent women on all the time. There are loads of great female comedians. . . . Plus, when you have just one woman on, she becomes the representative of all womankind rather than just a guest, free to muck about."

As a popular guest on BBC One's religious debate show "The Big Questions" (sometimes representing the National Secular Society), Smurthwaite feistily stood up for nonbelievers. A 2010 clip that went viral under the name "Atheist Bitchslap" got 3.8 million views on YouTube. The question was "Does heaven exist?" Responding to a man who said every aborted child is in heaven, she said, "So we would be doing them a favor by aborting them then?” and went on to say, “Faith is believing in things without evidence, and I don’t do that because I’m not an idiot.”

Jon Cartwright photo

 

"A powerful well-supported movement of atheist feminists — of us Godless women — has the potential to free fifty-two percent of the world’s population from compulsory continuous motherhood and restrictions on everything from clothing to education, work to sex — as well as the financial and time resources that organised religion demands."

—The Daily Telegraph, Jan. 7, 2016

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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