This Day In History, May 3rd

What happened on this day in history: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of Great Britain, Madeleine McCann goes missing in Portugal, and more historic events from May 3rd.

1469: Niccolò Machiavelli Is Born

Niccolò Machiavelli

Wikimedia CommonsA 16th-century portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by proto-Baroque painter Santi di Tito.

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, the famous Italian philosopher and diplomat, is born in Florence. He is best known for writing The Prince, a treatise on how to gain and keep political power that was first published in 1532. Because of the unethical acts he describes as examples of ways to gain power, Machiavelli has become synonymous with deviousness or ruthlessness in pursuit of power.

1494: Columbus Encounters The Island Of Jamaica

Columbus encounters the island of Jamaica. Columbus had heard about Jamaica from natives on modern-day Cuba. They claimed that Jamaica was an island of gold. Columbus never found gold on Jamaica, but he did claim it for the Spanish Empire, calling it Santiago. In its early days, Jamaica served as a supply base for Spaniards. In 1655, the English attacked Spaniards on Jamaica and claimed the island for themselves. Under English rule, Jamaica became an economically and politically important island in the Western Hemisphere.

1979: Margaret Thatcher Becomes The First Female Prime Minister Of Great Britain

Britain’s Conservative Party defeats the Labour Party by winning a majority in the House of Commons during parliamentary elections, making Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher the first female prime minister. She became known as the “Iron Lady” for her strident leadership style and anti-communist beliefs. Significant events from her time in office include the Falklands War, the final years of the Cold War, and an attempt on her life made by the Irish Republican Army.

1980: Cari Lightner Is Killed By A Drunk Driver

Cari Lightner

We Save Lives Highway Safety AdvocatesCari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 13.

A 13-year-old girl named Cari Lightner is hit by a car and killed while walking to a church carnival in Fair Oaks, California, leading to the creation of the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Police arrested Clarence Busch for Lightner’s death and soon discovered that he’d been involved in several other drunk driving incidents, including one less than a week before he hit Lightner. Cari’s mother Candy then founded MADD to take action against what she called “the only socially accepted form of homicide.”

2007: Madeleine McCann Goes Missing

Madeleine McCann

Wikimedia CommonsMadeleine McCann shortly before her disappearance in 2007.

Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old girl from England, goes missing while on vacation with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal. McCann’s parents, Gerry and Kate, had left Madeleine sleeping in an apartment with her two younger siblings while they ate at a restaurant less than 200 feet away.

They checked on the children throughout the evening, but at around 10 p.m. they noticed that Madeleine was gone. Portuguese police claimed she’d died in an accident and her parents had covered it up. But despite German police investigating a suspect named Christian Brückner as recently as 2020, McCann’s fate remains unknown to this day.