191 Years After His Death, the Poet William Blake Is Getting a New Tombstone

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Blake’s final words before his death in 1827 are said to have been, “I am going to that country which I have all my life wished to see.” But for the better part of two centuries, Blake’s unmarked grave meant that his final resting place remained largely unseen and unvisited—until now.

During a special ceremony on August 12, a memorial stone will finally be placed on Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields, London’s cemetery for nonconformists and religious dissenters, the Islington Tribune reports. Although his grave was located in 2006 using directional coordinates that had been logged by cemetery staff, it took some time for fans to reach a consensus on the new gravestone's inscription, which is an extract from his epic poem "Jerusalem."

The debate grew so heated that some punctuation purists quibbled over the apostrophes. One camp argued that the poet’s “eccentric” punctuation—or lack thereof—should be honored, while others said the proper apostrophes should be added in. The quote in question is: “I give you the end of a golden string / Only wind it into a ball / It will lead you in at Heavens gate / Built in Jerusalems wall.” (Ultimately, it was decided to leave the stanza untouched, apostrophes be damned.)

Although a memorial stone was erected in 1927 in honor of Blake’s memory, the language was rather vague, according to the book Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, by Mental Floss editor Bess Lovejoy. The inscription read, “Nearby lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake … and of his wife Catherine Sophia.” The stone did in fact mark Blake's location, and the "nearby" referred to his wife.

An older memorial marking the general area where William Blake is buried
Matthew Lloyd, Getty Images

However, in 1960, the stone was moved about 20 yards during cemetery renovations, and Blake’s grave once again went unmarked. It wasn’t until 2006 that two fans of Blake’s work, Luis and Carol Garrido, tracked down the exact location of Blake’s burial site—a common grave in which Blake lies buried beneath seven other bodies.

To fans of Blake, the memorial is a long overdue tribute to one of England's foremost poets. The gravestone unveiling ceremony on August 12 will feature musical performances, and 191 candles will be lit around Blake’s grave in commemoration of his death anniversary.

[h/t Islington Tribune]

Where Did the Term Brownie Points Come From?

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

In a Los Angeles Times column published on March 15, 1951, writer Marvin Miles observed a peculiar phrase spreading throughout his circle of friends and the social scene at large. While standing in an elevator, he overheard the man next to him lamenting “lost brownie points.” Later, in a bar, a friend of Miles's who had stayed out too late said he would never “catch up” on his brownie points.

Miles was perplexed. “What esoteric cult was this that immersed men in pixie mathematics?” he wrote. It was, his colleagues explained, a way of keeping “score” with their spouses, of tallying the goodwill they had accrued with the “little woman.”

Over the decades, the phrase brownie points has become synonymous with currying favor, often with authority figures such as teachers or employers. So where exactly did the term come from, and what happens when you “earn” them?

The most pervasive explanation is that the phrase originated with the Brownies, a subsect of the Girl Scouts who were encouraged to perform good deeds in their communities. The Brownies were often too young to be official Girl Scouts and were sometimes the siblings of older members. Originally called Rosebuds in the UK, they were renamed Brownies when the first troops were being organized in 1916. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had formed the Boy Scouts and was asked to name this new Girl Scout division, dubbed them Brownies after the magical creatures of Scottish folklore that materialized to selflessly help with household chores.

But the Brownies are not the only potential source. In the 1930s, kids who signed up to deliver magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal from Curtis Publishing were eligible for vouchers labeled greenies and brownies that they could redeem for merchandise. They were not explicitly dubbed brownie points, but it’s not hard to imagine kids applying a points system to the brownies they earned.

The term could also have been the result of wartime rationing in the 1940s, where red and brown ration points could be redeemed for meats.

The phrase didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Miles's column was published. In this context, the married men speaking to Miles believed brownie points could be collected by husbands who remembered birthdays and anniversaries, stopped to pick up the dry cleaning, mailed letters, and didn’t spend long nights in pubs speaking to newspaper columnists. The goal, these husbands explained, was never to get ahead; they merely wanted to be considered somewhat respectable in the eyes of their wives.

Later, possibly as a result of its usage in print, grade school students took the phrase to mean an unnecessary devotion to teachers in order to win them over. At a family and faculty meeting at Leon High in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956, earning brownie points was said to be a serious problem. Also called apple polishing, it prompted other students in class to shame their peers for being friendly to teachers. As a result, some were “reluctant to be civil” for fear they would be harassed for sucking up.

In the decades since that time, the idiom has become attached to any act where goodwill can be expected in return, particularly if it’s from someone in a position to reward the act with good grades or a promotion. As for Miles: the columnist declared his understanding of brownie points came only after a long night of investigation. Arriving home late, he said, rendered him “pointless.”

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Illinois Will Soon Require All Public Schools to Teach LGBTQ History

Carlos Alberto Kunichek/iStock via Getty Images
Carlos Alberto Kunichek/iStock via Getty Images

Illinois just officially became the fifth state to require its public schools to include LGBTQ history in the curriculum. CNN reports that Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Inclusive Curriculum Law on August 9, which will go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

The new curriculum will cover the 1924 formation of the Society for Human Rights—the nation’s first gay rights organization—and the fact that Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, was a lesbian. And it doesn’t stop at LGBTQ history: Newsweek reports that Illinois students will also learn more about how women and minorities have impacted our history.

The law also stipulates that textbooks purchased must “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must be non-discriminatory as to any of the characteristics under the Act.”

The law was co-sponsored by Illinois state representative Anna Moeller and senator Heather Steans along with Equality Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, the Legacy Project, and more than 40 additional education, health care, and civil rights organizations.

"The legislation exemplifies a demonstrated commitment to build and nurture an inclusive and supportive environment in the educational system in Illinois,” Mary F. Morten, board chair of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, said in a press release. It comes on the heels of a 2017 survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which found that 88 percent of LGBTQ students in Illinois had heard the word gay as a slur, and only 24 percent reported having been taught anything positive about LGBTQ figures in school.

California was the first state to pass similar legislation in 2011, followed by Colorado, Oregon, and New Jersey. According to The Washington Post, Maryland is working on changes, too; later this year, Maryland State Department of Education officials will seek approval from the State Board of Education for their curriculum plan, which includes LGBTQ and disability rights history.

Hopefully, more states will follow suit, especially in the wake of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots this past June. Too old to benefit from school curriculum updates? Enrich your understanding of LGBTQ history with this list of important locations for LGBTQ rights.

[h/t CNN]

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