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7 Couples Who Changed The World

Today is February 14th, or Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated by lovers all over the world. Unlike in Brazil, which instituted Valentine’s Day with specific commercial objectives, the holiday in the USA actually has Christian origins.

Diving into the season of romance, we have decided to celebrate this Valentine’s Day by highlighting some couples whose union changed not only their own lives but the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King

Source: Boston.com

Coretta Scott met Martin Luther King Jr. while studying singing and violin at the New England Conservatory of Music. At the time, he was preparing for his doctorate in theology at Boston University.

They were married in 1953 and moved to Montgomery, Alabama the following year because of Dr. King’s interest in becoming a minister. Soon after, the couple became part of the movement against segregation and in the defense of human rights.

Martin Luther King Jr. led the nonviolent movement and alongside Coretta, he organized many marches, welcoming new adherents along the way. The two became lifelong partners in the fight for civil rights in America.

After Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, Coretta worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy. She was the driving force behind the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, which houses the largest archives of Civil Rights documents. She also fought for her husband’s birthday to be celebrated as a national holiday– and succeeded!

Coretta remained an activist after her husband’s death. She founded and served as co-chair of the National Committee for Full Employment and the Full Employment Action Council, which sought to promote equal economic opportunity. Coretta Scott King died in 2006 and is buried at The King Center alongside her husband.

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

Source: Wikipedia

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre met in 1929, when the two were studying philosophy in Paris. Today, Sartre is considered the father of existentialism and Simone wrote and published “The Second Sex,” a book that inspired the second wave of the feminist movement of the 1960s.

It is pretty obvious we are not talking about just any couple. They had a profound influence, sharing opinions that helped change the prevailing thought during the times in which they lived. These actions and ideas still have repercussions today and continue to be part of the way generations see the world.

As the revolutionaries and moderns that they were, the “romantic” arrangement of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre was not conventional. The couple already had an open relationship, which was much rarer then than it is now.

Their partnership lasted 51 years, often tumultuous, but provided groundbreaking contributions to philosophy, literature, and political theory.

Ethel Collins Dunham and Martha May Eliot

Source: Wikimedia

Martha May Eliot and Ethel Collins Dunham met while studying at Bryn Mawr College. They decided to study medicine together in 1914. Eventually, their ambitions in medical studies separated them until they were both invited to join Yale’s new pediatric department.

The two changed the role of women in child medicine forever. During the Great Depression, Martha May Eliot was the creator of New Deal programs on maternal and child health and was later named head of the Children’s Bureau, a federal health agency under the Truman administration.

Dunham focused on caring for premature and newborn babies, establishing national infant care protocols. She became one of the first professors at the Yale School of Medicine, while her partner was the first female member of the American Pediatric Society and the first woman to become president of the American Public Health Association.

In 1957, the American Pediatric Society presented Dunham with its highest honor, the John Howland Award. She was the first woman to receive the honor. Eliot was second.

Tarsila do Amaral and Oswald de Andrade

Source: O Globo

Tarsila do Amaral and Oswald de Andrade, two of the greatest icons of Brazilian modern art, met in Europe. Tarsila was influential, well-connected and welcomed artists such as Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Blaise Cendrars to her apartment for feijoadas, served with caipirinha, straw cigarettes, Minas sweets and, of course, Brazilian coffee.

Of the friendships that formed during that time, Tarsila and Oswald can be grateful to Blaise Cendrars who, when visiting Brazil at their invitation, drew attention to the richness of the country’s culture. The foreign gaze showed Brazilian modernist artists just how much there was to explore artistically in our interior, in our nature and in our customs. It was the first time that Brazilian art looked inwards, instead of being inspired by what came from Paris.

In 1926, Oswald de Andrade and Tarsila do Amaral got married in São Paulo and began to work together, discussing their ideas about the modern movement in Brazil. They had access to Hans Staden’s Anthropophagic Banquet and were heavily inspired by the theme.

Tarsila painted one of the most important works of Brazilian art, Abaporu, to give as a gift to Oswald, who in turn wrote the Cannibal Manifesto. The two works are considered the foundation for the development of the Brazilian Modernist Movement.

The marriage lasted only 3 years but changed the history of Brazilian art– and the world– forever.

Source: Wikipedia

Marie and Pierre Curie

Source: Galileu

Marie Sklodowska was born in Warsaw in 1867. At age 24, she traveled to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. In 1894, she graduated in physics and mathematics. Around this time, she met a renowned physicist named Pierre Curie and there is no mystery as to how she caught his eye. They quickly pooled their research (and toothbrushes) and were married in 1895.

The honeymoon was a bicycle adventure through the French countryside – and their married life was spent almost entirely in the laboratory, where they developed unprecedented research on radioactivity.

In 1903, they won the Nobel Prize in Physics together. Pierre died in 1906 and 5 years later, Marie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 for discovering the chemical elements radium and polonium, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.

To crown the fruits of this marriage, the couple’s daughter, Irène, also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, along with her husband Frédéric Joliot, for the discovery of the neutron and artificial radioactivity.

Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Source: History.com

Few couples have been able to partner as effectively as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is difficult to measure which of them benefited the most from their marriage, but it is a fact that the union brought about important changes in their lives.

The courtship started in adolescence. Franklin was enchanted by the seriousness and intelligence of his cousin (5th degree) Eleanor, who already stood out for having interests far beyond what was expected of a girl at that time.

The niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, she fought the exploitation of workers and was already a social activist when she married Franklin in 1905. In 1910, she was elected to the New York Legislative Assembly. Her husband won the election to the Senate of the same state. In this way, their home was fertile ground for political discussion.

Their bond has always been more intellectual than loving. They were more passionate about the same ideals than each other. Even the discovery of an extramarital affair with Franklin did not shake Eleanor, who continued in the marriage and began to dedicate herself to her career with more intensity, becoming one of the most influential women in American politics in the 20th century.

In 1921, Franklin was paralyzed by polio and nearly gave up on public life, but Eleanor saved his career by getting him elected governor. He holds the record for having won four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century.

Franklin Roosevelt was president through most of the Great Depression, implementing his domestic New Deal agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in US history. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II, and he died while in office in 1945.

After the death of her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt remained active in politics for the remaining 17 years of her life. She lobbied the United States to join and support the United Nations and became its first delegate. She served as the first Chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She later chaired the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women under the John F. Kennedy administration.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Source: Diário de Pernambuco

Long before stamping t-shirts, bags, notebooks and tattoos around the world, Frida was a great Mexican artist who shook world art and Latin politics, always closely followed by her husband, Diego Rivera.

When they met, Rivera was already a highly respected and recognized artist, while Frida was just a young art student. The two began dating in 1925 and were married in 1929. They remained together until her death in 1954. Their art was influenced by this relationship.

Diego Rivera is today the most important Mexican artist of the 20th century, with his vibrant and politically influenced works depicting the culture, history and struggles of Mexican workers.

Frida Kahlo’s surrealist art, which foregrounded her physical and psychological suffering, made her a feminist icon. She was the first Latin American woman to have a painting on the walls of the Louvre.

The two were important political activists throughout their lives. Rivera’s murals inspired President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program, which created jobs for artists during the Great Depression. Days before her death in 1954, Frida appeared with Rivera to protest American intervention in Guatemala.

In addition to their 27 years together, the couple exchanged extraordinary love letters that became books, from which iconic phrases emerged.

“Don’t build a wall around your own suffering – it may devour you from the inside.”

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