Maria de Jesus of Portugal died earlier this year, relinquishing the title of world's oldest known person at 115 years and 114 days. Born Sept. 10, 1893, de Jesus was a farm worker from age 12 who never learned to read or write, ate a vegeterian diet and outlived her husband by 57 years. Perhaps the most amazing facet of her longevity was that she got to know six great-great-grandchildren.
The death of de Jesus makes the oldest person Gertrude Baines, an American supercentenarian living in a Los Angeles nursing home. It also moves the line of oblivion, the starting date for the living history of the world, forward to Baines' birthday on April 6, 1894.
With the death of de Jesus, we've lost the last person who was alive when New Zealand became the first modern country to grant women the right to vote (Sept. 19, 1893) and Colorado became the second U.S. state to do the same (Nov. 7). She was also the last who could have remembered the first drive of a gas-powered automobile in the U.S. by Charles and Frank Duryea (Sept. 21) and the first sale of bottled Coca-Cola (March 12, 1894).
There's no longer anybody who could have shared a Coke with the Russian composer Tchaikovsky (died Nov. 6, 1893), saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax (Feb. 4, 1894), German physicist Heinrich Hertz (Jan. 1, 1894), English painter Ford Madox Brown (Oct. 6, 1893), or baseball player Ned Williamson (March 3, 1893), who hit 27 home runs in a single season, a record that stood until 1919 when it was broken by that young upstart Babe Ruth.
If you think my interest in this subject is obsessive, every day somebody on Wikipedia edits the entry for Baines to indicate her age down to the day. At 115 years and 35 days as of today, Baines is the 25th oldest person ever. She's the African-American daughter of a man born into slavery who's only voted twice for president in 115 years, first for John F. Kennedy and second for Barack Obama.