Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 
Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

9 Facts You Should Know About Maggie Hassan

Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 
Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

Maggie Hassan is the newest member of New Hampshire’s all-female (and all-Democratic) congressional delegation. The junior senator previously served as governor of the Granite State before entering national politics. Read on for nine facts you should know about Maggie Hassan.


Maggie Hassan was born Margaret Wood in 1958. She grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., with excursions to her mother’s family’s summer home in Rhode Island. Her mother, Margaret Byers Wood, was a teacher, while her father, Robert Coldwell Wood, was a political science professor at MIT when Hassan was born, and their family lived in the wealthy Boston suburb of Lincoln.

While running for the presidency in 1960, John F. Kennedy reached out to Robert Wood for guidance on urban issues, and Wood wrote him a campaign speech about the needs of the American city. In 1966, Wood took the position of Under Secretary of the then-new Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Lyndon Johnson, and moved his family to D.C. Hassan and her two siblings, Frank and Franny, attended elementary school in D.C. and then moved back to Lincoln with their parents in 1969 after Robert Wood finished his tenure at HUD and returned to academic work in Boston. He soon became the president of the University of Massachusetts.

A friend of Hassan’s from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School told New Hampshire Public Radio that the family was a bit intimidating: “I mean there were signed pictures of JFK in the study, and they would sit at the dinner table and have conversations about current events.” The Wood siblings remember those conversations well. “There were a lot of interesting people in my house while I was growing up,” Hassan’s brother, Frank, remarked in an interview. “Mostly, I remember listening to all these people, but we were also encouraged to talk and, whether we knew it or not, develop our speaking skills.” Hassan agreed, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader, “My father used to actually go around the table person by person and ask them what they thought, so everybody from family members to our guests were expected to either think out loud or have an opinion, and we did.”

This encouragement to practice their speaking skills served the Wood children well: Hassan entered politics, while Frank became a Broadway actor.


Hassan went on to Brown University, where she met her future husband, Thomas Hassan. He was the son of a butcher [PDF] and a secretary who had attended Brown as an undergraduate and was working at the school at the time he met Maggie. Tom wanted to become a teacher, and he went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in education at Harvard.

The two married in 1983, and while Tom was pursuing his PhD they lived in a freshman dorm at Harvard, where he served as assistant dean of freshmen. Meanwhile, Maggie went to law school nearby at Northeastern University. She graduated in 1985 and started her career as a lawyer in Boston. In 1989, Tom landed a job teaching at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was excited by the opportunity, falling in love with the school when he went to visit, so the couple moved to New Hampshire, where Maggie would launch her political career. Tom later became the principal of Phillips Exeter, and the couple lived on campus for years with their children, Meg and Ben, who both attended the school.


Soon after their first child, Ben, was born, the Hassans learned he had cerebral palsy. Though his mind functions at a high level, Ben cannot speak, walk, or use his hands, and Hassan quickly realized that she and Tom would need to become strong advocates for their son to ensure he received the same opportunities as other children. “Twenty or thirty years earlier we would’ve been pressured to put him in an institution,” Hassan noted in a campaign ad. Ben’s parents wanted him to have access to a mainstream education, so they sent him to public school, beginning with preschool at age 3. When the bus came to pick Ben up on the first day of preschool and Hassan wheeled him onto the wheelchair lift and watched him leave with the other children, she reflected on the work others had done in the past, telling Roll Call, “That really got me focused on the work that other families and advocates and elected leaders had done so that, on that day, my son wasn’t in an institution. He was going to school and he was having a chance to learn and make friends.”

But there was still a lot of work to be done. Hassan had to fight to get Ben’s elementary school to adjust to his needs, and in doing so, she became more and more involved in disability-rights activism, all while working as a lawyer and raising Ben and his younger sister, Meg. “I ended up advocating a lot locally, and then at the State House,” she told NH1. Her activism caught the eye of Jeanne Shaheen, then the governor of New Hampshire, who appointed Hassan to a state commission on education in 1999. In 2002, state Democrats encouraged Hassan to run for the New Hampshire Senate, but she worried about juggling a campaign with her law practice and family responsibilities. Tom recalled to NH1, “[S]he came up with all the reasons why it would be really hard and I said to her, ‘You’d be great at it.’” So she ran. And lost.

But in 2004 Hassan ran again, against the same Republican incumbent who had beat her two years prior, and this time she won. Hassan would serve three consecutive terms in the state Senate, becoming assistant Democratic whip, president pro tempore, and finally majority leader over the course of six years.

“I don't think I would have run for office if I hadn’t been Ben's mother,” Hassan told NH1. She also told Refinery 29, “Our family was able to thrive because of all the people who fought to bring people like Ben in from the margins. That inspired me to advocate for others, and it was one of the reasons I ran for the state Senate and then for governor, and now for the United States Senate.”


During her time as a state senator, Hassan also helped pass legislation mandating universal public kindergarten across the state. From 1988 until the bill took effect in 2009, New Hampshire was the only state without universal kindergarten. But the state constitution requires New Hampshire to provide an “adequate education” for its children, so in 2007, the legislature passed a bill defining an “adequate education” as including kindergarten, thus requiring all school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten.

During the same legislative session, Hassan sponsored legislation raising the legal age at which children can drop out of school. New Hampshire had originally set the age limit at 16 in 1903, and over a century later, Hassan and others pushed that limit to 18, hoping a change in the law would lower drop-out rates. The law seems to have been successful: The state drop-out rate has declined by over 50% since it was passed, leaving New Hampshire with one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation [PDF].


In 2008, Hassan was appointed Senate majority leader by the president of the New Hampshire Senate, Democrat Sylvia Larsen. Larsen told the Boston Globe that she chose Hassan over other, more senior politicians because “She was a powerhouse” who could drive the other Democrats into line while Larsen worked across the aisle.

Hassan’s forceful leadership was perhaps most obvious in 2009, when she became determined to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire—and had to convince other Democrats, who were worried voters weren’t comfortable with the idea. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses of the New Hampshire legislature as well as the governor’s office, and Hassan wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the course of six months, she presented to the legislature three different versions of a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, tweaking the language as she went along to earn more supporters. Another Democrat who originally opposed the bill later told New Hampshire Public Radio, “Maggie was very constructive in getting us to a place where the language of the bill was refined, and making sure that other Senators were comfortable with the language.” Hassan negotiated successfully, but did so quietly. She did not publicize her stance on the bill at the time, telling The New York Times in April 2009 that Senate Democrats “like to talk to each other and hear each others’ thoughts out as well, and we try to do that privately.”

The third version of the bill recognizing same-sex marriage narrowly passed both houses of the New Hampshire legislature, and on June 3, 2009, Governor John Lynch signed it into law. Though Hassan didn’t take credit at the time, others later revealed that she was the driving force behind the bill. Larsen told The Atlantic that while some senators thought the bill was ahead of public opinion, Hassan convinced them that “the time was right and we should do it because it’s the right thing.”


In 2010, Hassan used her position as chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection to pass legislation requiring insurance companies to expand coverage of autism therapies. The bill, known as Connor’s Law, mandates coverage of medically necessary treatment programs, such as applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, and physical and occupational therapy.


Tim Pierce via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

After six years in the state Senate, Hassan was ousted in autumn 2010 by the same man she’d originally won her seat from—Republican Russell Prescott. Republican support surged across the country that year, and New Hampshire was no different, with the GOP gaining control of the state Senate. But in 2011, when Democratic governor John Lynch announced he would not be seeking reelection, Hassan saw an opportunity and threw her hat into the ring. She won the 2012 gubernatorial election by over 80,000 votes, carrying all of New Hampshire’s 10 counties.

And the 2012 election was historic for New Hampshire: Two female Democratic candidates ousted the state’s incumbent GOP Congressmen, joining Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to make up the first-ever all-female congressional delegation from any state. With four women in Congress and Hassan elected the second female governor, New Hampshire entered an unprecedented era of female leadership.


Hassan used her power as governor to issue an executive order in June 2016 banning discrimination in state government against transgender people. Expanding New Hampshire’s existing non-discrimination regulations, the order prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression in government hiring, in the administration of state programs, and by private contractors employed by the state.


Dennis David Auger via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Hassan’s spokesman explained that her surname is pronounced “HASS-in, sounds like fasten.” But because it’s spelled the same as a common Arabic name pronounced Huh-SAHN, Maggie Hassan frequently has her last name mispronounced—including during her swearing in for her second term as governor and when she was mentioned in a prompt on Jeopardy. During her Senate campaign, she even faced a raft of negative campaign mailers from a group called One Nation, ads which the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed exploited her “Arab and Muslim-sounding name” by connecting her to the threat of “Radical Islamic terrorists.” The group who sent out the fliers said that they were not insinuating Hassan was Muslim but simply highlighting her support for the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, and that they sent out the fliers about other Democratic candidates as well.

But that wasn’t the first time the Hassans encountered suspicion about their name. Far-right internet commenters charged that Tom Hassan had allowed “radical Islamists” to speak at Phillips Exeter and speculated that he was secretly Muslim himself. (He’s not.)

To clear up any confusion: Hassan is an Irish surname. It’s the Anglicized version of the Gaelic Ó hOsáin, which means “descendant of Osán.” The name Osán is itself a diminutive of the Gaelic word os, meaning “deer.”

The Origins of 5 International Food Staples

Food is more than fuel. Cuisine and culture are so thoroughly intertwined that many people automatically equate tomatoes with Italy and potatoes with Ireland. Yet a thousand years ago those dietary staples were unheard of in Europe. How did they get to be so ubiquitous there—and beyond?


For years, the wonderful fruit that’s now synonymous with Italy was mostly ignored there. Native to South America and likely cultivated in Central America, tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers during the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, widespread misconceptions about the newcomers took root. In part due to their watery complexion, it was inaccurately thought that eating tomatoes could cause severe digestive problems. Before the 18th century, the plants were mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes. Tomato-based sauce recipes wouldn’t start appearing in present-day Italy until 1692 (although even those recipes were more like a salsa or relish than a sauce). Over the next 150 years, tomato products slowly spread throughout the peninsula, thanks in no small part to the agreeable Mediterranean climate. By 1773, some cooks had taken to stuffing tomatoes with rice or veal. In Naples, the fruits were sometimes chopped up and placed onto flatbread—the beginnings of modern pizza. But what turned the humble tomato into a national icon was the canning industry. Within Italy’s borders, this business took off in a big way during the mid-to-late 19th century. Because tomatoes do well stored inside metal containers, canning companies dramatically drove up the demand. The popularity of canned tomatoes was later solidified by immigrants who came to the United States from Italy during the early 20th century: Longing for Mediterranean ingredients, transplanted families created a huge market for Italian-grown tomatoes in the US.


Bowl of chicken curry with a spoon in it

An international favorite, curry is beloved in both India and the British Isles, not to mention the United States. And it turns out humans may have been enjoying the stuff for a very, very long time. The word “curry” was coined by European colonists and is something of an umbrella term. In Tamil, a language primarily found in India and Sri Lanka, “kari” means “sauce.” When Europeans started traveling to India, the term was eventually modified into “curry,” which came to designate any number of spicy foods with South or Southeast Asian origins. Nonetheless, a great number of curry dishes share two popular components: turmeric and ginger. In 2012, traces of both were discovered inside residue caked onto pots and human teeth at a 4500-year-old archaeological site in northern India. And where there’s curry, there’s usually garlic: A carbonized clove of this plant was also spotted nearby. “We don’t know they were putting all of them together in a dish, but we know that they were eating them at least individually,” Steve Weber, one of the archaeologists who helped make this astonishing find, told The Columbian. He and his colleagues have tentatively described their discovery as "proto-curry."


Several baguettes

A quintessential Gallic food, baguettes are adored throughout France, where residents gobble up an estimated 10 billion every year. The name of the iconic bread ultimately comes from the Latin word for stick, baculum, and references its long, slender form. How the baguette got that signature shape is a mystery. One popular yarn credits Napoleon Bonaparte: Supposedly, the military leader asked French bakers to devise a new type of skinny bread loaf that could be comfortably tucked into his soldiers’ pockets. Another origin story involves the Paris metro, built in the 19th century by a team of around 3500 workers who were apparently sometimes prone to violence during meal times. It’s been theorized that the metro foremen tried to de-escalate the situation by introducing bread that could be broken into pieces by hand—thereby eliminating the need for laborers to carry knives. Alas, neither story is supported by much in the way of historical evidence. Still, it’s clear that lengthy bread is nothing new in France: Six-foot loaves were a common sight in the mid-1800s. The baguette as we know it today, however, didn’t spring into existence until the early 20th century. The modern loaf is noted for its crispy golden crust and white, puffy center—both traits made possible by the advent of steam-based ovens, which first arrived on France’s culinary scene in the 1920s.


Bowl of red, white, and black potatoes on wooden table

Historical records show that potatoes reached Ireland by the year 1600. Nobody knows who first introduced them; the list of potential candidates includes everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Spanish Armada. Regardless, Ireland turned out to be a perfect habitat for the tubers, which hail from the misty slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Half a world away, Ireland’s rich soils and rainy climate provided similar conditions—and potatoes thrived there. They also became indispensable. For millennia, the Irish diet had mainly consisted of dairy products, pig meats, and grains, none of which were easy for poor farmers to raise. Potatoes, on the other hand, were inexpensive, easy to grow, required fairly little space, and yielded an abundance of filling carbs. Soon enough, the average Irish peasant was subsisting almost entirely on potatoes, and the magical plant is credited with almost single-handedly triggering an Irish population boom. In 1590, only around 1 million people lived on the island; by 1840, that number had skyrocketed to 8.2 million. Unfortunately, this near-total reliance on potatoes would have dire consequences for the Irish people. In 1845, a disease caused by fungus-like organisms killed off somewhere between one-third and one-half of the country’s potatoes. Roughly a million people died as a result, and almost twice as many left Ireland in a desperate mass exodus. Yet potatoes remained a cornerstone of the Irish diet after the famine ended; in 1899, one magazine reported that citizens were eating an average of four pounds’ worth of them every day. Expatriates also brought their love of potatoes with them to other countries, including the U.S. But by then, the Yanks had already developed a taste for the crop: The oldest record of a permanent potato patch on American soil dates back to 1719. That year, a group of farmers—most likely Scots-Irish immigrants—planted one in the vicinity of modern-day Derry, New Hampshire. From these humble origins, the potato steadily rose in popularity, and by 1796, American cookbooks were praising its “universal use, profit, and easy acquirement.”


Corn growing in a field

In the 1930s, geneticist George W. Beadle exposed a vital clue about how corn—also known as maize—came into existence. A future Nobel Prize winner, Beadle demonstrated that the chromosomes found in everyday corn bear a striking resemblance to those of a Mexican grass called teosinte. At first glance, teosinte may not look very corn-like. Although it does have kernels, these are few in number and encased in tough shells that can easily chip a human tooth. Nonetheless, years of work allowed Beadle to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that corn was descended from teosinte. Today, genetic and archaeological data suggests that humans began the slow process of converting this grass into corn around 8700 years ago in southwestern Mexico. If you're wondering why early farmers showed any interest in cultivating teosinte to begin with, while the plant is fairly unappetizing in its natural state, it does have a few key attributes. One of these is the ability to produce popcorn: If held over an open fire, the kernels will “pop” just as our favorite movie theater treat does today. It might have been this very quality that inspired ancient horticulturalists to tinker around with teosinte—and eventually turn it into corn


Person sitting cross-legged holding a cup of green tea

The United Kingdom’s ongoing love affair with this hot drink began somewhat recently. Tea—which is probably of Chinese origin—didn’t appear in Britain until the 1600s. Initially, the beverage was seen as an exotic curiosity with possible health benefits. Shipping costs and tariffs put a hefty price tag on tea, rendering it quite inaccessible to the lower classes. Even within England’s most affluent circles, tea didn’t really catch on until King Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza. By the time they tied the knot in 1662, tea-drinking was an established pastime among the elite in her native Portugal. Once Catherine was crowned Queen, tea became all the rage in her husband’s royal court. From there, its popularity slowly grew over several centuries and eventually transcended socioeconomic class. At present, the average Brit drinks an estimated three and a half cups of tea every day.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
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Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.


We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”


Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."


While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”


Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)


Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”


One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."


While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"


As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.


In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”


Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”


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