My Dearest Flâneurs,
On behalf of the ‘Supreme Inner Council of Fairpak International’, please allow me to offer you our most sincere apologies for the utterly unforgivable tardiness in publishing the September round of the 2007 competition. We are conscious of the fact that many of you have regrettably been forced to resort to antidepressant medication in order to see yourselves through the quite devastating withdrawal symptoms that set in under such circumstances. The reason for this lapse on our part is entirely due to the unexpected and quite overwhelming public response worldwide to this year’s inaugural calendrical quiz. Not only has this resulted in Fairpak having had to take on considerably more staff since the inception of the quiz, and expand its bank of computers with the very latest state of the art machinery in order to cope with the barrage of submissions, but, the team has also found it necessary to recently relocate to more commodious accommodation: kindly provided by our associates at ‘The Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland’, George Street, Edinburgh. Although it will understandably be of little comfort, our Director General hopes that those sufferers amongst you who have been thus afflicted will accept his reassurances that, due to the measures taken, there should be no reoccurrence of this lamentable event.
How the months fly! The year’s end is coming ever closer. Who will ultimately be crowned ‘Victor Laureate 2007’? Who knows? Not I. And so, once more into the breech my friends.
One does not in any way wish to instil the level of panic which ensued following the publication of the bumper May round: which you may recollect became somewhat of an extravaganza resulting from the absence of our DG (indeed, Fairpak still awaits a clean sweep winner for that particular month), however, Sir Henry has yet again been unavoidably detained on other duties of late. Following his recent annual clan gathering at Ballater in August, he has now been called upon to accompany some of his old RN chums for a brief month long tour on a recently refitted Trafalgar Class submarine down in Plymouth (I am informed that under the entry ‘occupation’ on his passport it reads: ‘Lucky Bastard’, or some such). Nevertheless, in order to avoid matters descending into a repeat of the May fiasco, he actually wrote this month’s quiz himself prior to his departure: which has certainly been a great weight lifted off our shoulders.
I now, therefore, hand you over to Sir Henry Farquharson himself, initially in his very own best copperplate. Good luck to you all. And, don’t forget, all the usual nonsense applies: one point per correct answer, plus one bonus point for fastest finger.
Yours most sincerely,
Now listen here chaps and chapesses. It’s pretty clear to me that you Flâneur types are fairly well clued up so, you ought not to find the following too taxing. As it happens, one is not superstitious, however, for a variety of personal reasons, I have come to regard the number seven, after which this month of September is named, as somewhat special: not least due to the fact that it is the first of the mathematically perfect numbers, but more importantly, my good wife’s name is in fact Septima, her maiden name being Septima Cholmondeley: as she is the seventh born daughter of seven. Therefore, out of respect for her immaculate womanhood, I have decided to devote this month’s challenge to members of the fairer sex, who have all too frequently been variously passed over, viewed as a threat or simply ignored. So please, take up the gauntlet and demonstrate not only to Fairpak, but to the world, that their names have not been entirely forgotten.
Herewith follows seven brief biographies of notable ladies, accompanied by their portraits. They made significant impressions one way or another in their various fields of activity, though in some cases their indent in the history tomes appears in rather light pencil, doubtless because that was all they were provided with at the time, others, however, did manage to obtain a slightly more indelible device! So, who are they then?
1 A renowned French born mathematician and physicist. Fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek, German and English, a skilled horse rider, fencer, harpsichordist and opera singer, this genius not only translated Newton’s Principia into French but actually corrected the great man’s formulae: she is reputed to be the link between Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, and hailed to this day for her theorising in the field of classical mechanics. Her ‘companion’, Voltaire, said of her: “a great man whose only fault was being a woman.” She died aged forty-two, six days after bearing a child. Such were her various romantic liaisons that no one is quite sure who the father was.
2 A Jamaican, self-educated medic. Determined to alleviate the wounded and sick troops fighting in the Crimea, she was forced to pay her own way to the battlefields: having been rejected by Nightingale’s arrogant ignorance. Whilst dear Florence operated out of the safety of Turkey, our Jamaican friend worked at the frontline, frequently treating the wounded of both sides. Stranded and destitute following the cessation of hostilities, she was eventually rescued from penury by a benefit gala organised in her name by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. In her later life, she was patronised by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge and a variety of senior British military figures in recognition of her self-sacrifice, medical skills and service at the front.
3 A Polish born Jew and socialist revolutionary par-excellence. Fled from her homeland to avoid arrest, eventually settling in Zurich, where she studied philosophy, politics, history, economics and mathematics simultaneously. Famed for her erudite analysis of capitalism and open conflict with Lenin, she later became a German citizen, where she established her reputation as probably the greatest socialist fire-brand to ever have graced the planet. During her residence in Berlin, she taught Marxist theory, established periodicals and laid the foundations for the Communist Party of Germany. She was imprisoned for her political activities in 1916. Upon her release at the end of the First World War, she was murdered as a result of her having attempted to lead a revolution. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” Her last written words were: “I was, I am, and I will be.”
4 Born into an Austrian Jewish family, she became one of the most influential nuclear physicists of her day: initially reaching prominence as a researcher at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Due to her racial background, she was forced to flee from Nazi persecution, eventually settling in Sweden, where she continued her experimental work. Although a vehement anti-fascist, her ultimate quest was knowledge, and therefore, still shared her research with German scientists of the day, and despite the fact that she was the first physicist to realise that not only was a fissile chain reaction possible but that it would release enormous energy, it was Otto Hahn who claimed credit for the discovery - even though he was unable to explain ‘his’ calculations. Nevertheless, Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, she, by contrast, was ignored by the Nobel Committee. In any case, why should she have bothered herself with such trifles? Amongst her peers, including Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, she was held in great esteem. And after all, she has an element on the periodic table bearing her name.
5 Born into a politically prominent British family, who were influential in aiding Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, her research into the properties of coal formed the basis for the development of today’s carbon fibre technology. However, it was the work she did on the structure of DNA at King’s College in London that marked her out as one of the most outstanding figures in the natural sciences. Controversy has always surrounded the fact that whilst Crick and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for their double helix model, she received no mention at all, even though her experimental material was instrumental in the discovery. Despite speculative suggestions that she was murdered - on the grounds that she might have been bearing a child as a result of a relationship with either Crick or Watson - the post mortem pointed conclusively to cancer on two counts. Firstly, that as a result of her profession, she exposed herself to large doses of x-ray radiation, and secondly, being genetically of Ashkenazi-Jewish descent, she was, unfortunately, more susceptible to the condition.
6 The Indian Robin Hood? Born into a lower caste family, at the age of eleven, she was married off to a man some two to three times her senior, who beat and raped her at will, and who ultimately dumped her. Quite a start in life! She was then kidnapped by dacoits, but was protected by one of their leaders: Vikram - who taught her how to get ahead in the world of AKs and general banditry. This, however, did not prevent her being beaten and raped by the police and her eventual capture by the people of Behmai during an escapade when Vikram died and she was raped over a period of three weeks by the men of the village. Upon her escape, she became the leader of one of the most notorious dacoit bands India had ever encountered, and took her revenge on the men of Behmai by massacring them. The Indian government, having failed to capture her, agreed to a truce on her terms. She served an eleven year gaol sentence, following which, she became a member of parliament, and was eventually assassinated in 2001. According to legend, she made a point of only robbing the upper castes and giving the loot to the poor.
7 Brilliant New York born photographer and war correspondent. She was taught the basics of photography by her father, who used her as his model. In her early twenties, having scandalised America with a sanitary towel advertisement, she moved to Paris and became Man Ray’s student assistant and model: featuring as the subject in some of his most enduring images. She was a fellow traveller with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Henry Moore, Paul Éluard and many others – eventually marrying British surrealist Roland Penrose. During the Second World War, she achieved renown as a photo-journalist taking many harrowing photographs of the death camps and documenting the lives of the American troops – she was also famously photographed bathing in Hitler’s bathtub. She never talked about her war time experiences, her images spoke volumes in themselves.