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October 25

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
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10-25-1818, Catherine Hayes, Ireland's first operatic prima donna rose from abject poverty in rural Ireland to become an internationally renowned opera singer in Vienna, Milan, Venice, Rome, London, Dublin New York and Sydney. She was the first Irish woman to sing at Milan's great La Scala Opera House, where she became the leading prima donna for a number of years. In London in 1849, after a successful debut at the Royal Italian Opera in Covent Garden she was invited to sing for Queen Victoria and 500 guests at Buckingham Palace. She then went to Ireland to sing in opera and at charity concerts, where she was welcomed everywhere. Returning to Italy in 1851 she was awarded a Diploma from the prestigious Accademia di Santa Cecilia.
      Subsequently, she made a tour of 45 cities in America and Canada singing with great success. In Washington DC the President of the U.S. and his family attended her concert. After performing in places such as New York, Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco she went on a world tour to South America, Hawaii and Australia. She also visited Calcutta, Java and Singapore where he concerts were sold out. As a very rich woman in 1856 she set sail around the globe to return to England where she married her American manager. Sadly the marriage was short-lived, her husband died a year later and she followed him at the young age of 42 in 1861 in London. Hospitals, racehorses, ships and drinks were named for her.
      [Thank you to Basil Walsh for submitting the foregoing. Basil Walsh is a Florida based author and writer on opera and singers. His biography Catherine Hayes: The Hibernian Prima Donna was published last year in the USA and Ireland by the Irish Academic Press. He has written articles for various Journals and magazines in Europe and the US. Most recently he was invited to be a contributor to the Royal Irish Academy's multi-volume Dictionary of Irish biography being -- Ed.]

B. 10-25-1930, Hanna Holborn Gray, as president of the University of Chicago (1978) she became the first woman to head a major coeducational university in the U.S. She had been acting president of Yale University but took the Chicago post while the selection for Yale president was underway. Rumor had it that SHE because she was a SHE was not going to be named president. Yale officials deny it and have tried to claim a woman president without actually having had one by counting Gay's tenure as acting president as a regular president.

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