The Thing About Today – May 12

May 12, 2020
Day 133 of 366


May 12th is the 133rd day of the year. It is International Nurses Day, a celebration of the hardest working professionals in the medical industry and their contributions to society. It is observed each year on May 12th, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

It is also International Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. The day is observed so that stakeholders have an occasion to improve the knowledge of “the public, policymakers, and healthcare professionals about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of ME/CFS, as well as the need for a better understanding of this complex illness.” It was also chosen because it is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who had a disease with an infection-associated onset that could have been a neuroimmune disease such as ME/CFS.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Limerick Day, National Odometer Day, and National Nutty Fudge Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1846, the Donner Party of pioneers departed Independence, Missouri for California. It would become a year-long journey of hardship and cannibalism.
  • In 1863, Bengali writer, painter, violin player and composer, technologist, and entrepreneur Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury was born.
  • In 1870, the Manitoba Act was given the Royal Assent, paving the way for Manitoba to become a province of Canada on July 15th.
  • In 1907, actress Katherine Hepburn was born.
  • In 1925, baseball player, coach, and manager Yogi Berra was born.
  • In 1928, singer-songwriter, pianist, and producer Burt Bacharach was born.
  • In 1937, the Duke and Duchess of York were crowned as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Westminster Abbey.
  • Also in 1937, comedian, actor, and author George Carlin was born.
  • In 1948, actress Lindsay Crouse was born.
  • In 1950, actor and author Bruce Boxleitner was born.
  • In 1958, actress Jennifer Hetrick was born.
  • In 1959, actor Ving Rhames was born.
  • In 1965, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 5 crashed on the Moon.
  • In 1968, actress and comedian Catherine Tate was born.
  • In 1978, actress, model, and singer Malin Åkerman was born.
  • In 1981, actor Rami Malek was born.
  • In 1983, actor Domhnall Gleeson was born.
  • In 1986, actress Emily VanCamp was born.
  • In 2002, former United States President Jimmy Carter arrived in Cuba for a five-day visit with Fidel Castro. He was the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since Castro’s 1959 revolution.


In 1820, Italian-English nurse, social reformer, and statistician Florence Nightingale was born.

She came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organized medical care for wounded soldiers. Through her acts, nursing gained a favorable reputation and she became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

Her later work was important in professionalizing nursing roles for women. In 1860, she built the foundation of the profession with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world and is now part of King’s College London.

In recognition of her pioneering work, the Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses, and the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve – were named in her honor.

Nightingale’s social reforms included improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws that were harsh for women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.

Although much of Nightingale’s work improved the lives of women everywhere, she was of the opinion that women craved sympathy and were not as capable as men. She criticized early women’s rights activists for decrying an alleged lack of careers for women at the same time that lucrative medical positions, both under her supervision and that of others, went perpetually unfilled.

She was a prodigious and versatile writer and in her lifetime, much of her published work focused on spreading medical knowledge. It was often written in simple English to be easily understood by those with poor literary skills. She was also a pioneer in data visualization with the use of infographics, effectively using graphical presentations of statistical data.

In 1883, she was the first recipient of the Royal Red Cross. In 1904, she was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John (LGStJ). In 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. The next year, she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.

Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously. She died peacefully in her sleep on August 13, 1910, at the age of 90.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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