Fun facts about leap year
Fun facts about leap year This Feb. 23, 2016 photo shows a homemade February 2016 calendar illustrating leap year. Feb. 29 is that extra day that rolls around every four years. (AP Photo/Leanne Italie/Thinkstock)
Fun facts about leap year
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Leap Year is more than just a quirky thing that happens to newborns on the occasional 29th of February.
The extra day rolls around every four years. And 2016 is one. It includes a world of lore related to women -- gasp! -- popping the marriage question to men.
Here's a look at that magical mark on the calendar as it relates to love and marriage. The information is courtesy of Monmouth University historian Katherine Parkin. She has researched the topic.
The year was 1904 when syndicated columnist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, aka Dorothy Dix, summed up the Leap Day proposal tradition.
"Of course people will say . . . that a woman's leap year prerogative, like most of her liberties, is merely a glittering mockery."
Parkin said, however serious or tongue-in-cheek, it could have empowered women. Instead, she said it merely maintained stereotypes. The proposals were to happen via postcard. But many such cards turned the tables. They poked mean fun at women instead.
The end result? Leap Year, according to Parkin, served to reinforce traditional gender roles.
Advertising also maintained the marriage games in Leap Years. Parkin, in a 2012 paper in the Journal of Family History, offered one solid example.
A 1916 ad by the American Industrial Bank and Trust Co. read thusly: "This being Leap Year day, we suggest to every girl that she propose to her father to open a savings account in her name in our own bank."
That, Parkin said, further undercuts the idea that Leap Year somehow offered a breath of independence.
Baseball Digest took to running articles showing off bachelor players during some Leap Years in the 1950s and '60s. It listed them by hair and eye color and religion. And, of course, whether they batted left or right.
"They were trying to persuade women they were a good catch," Parkin said. "They encouraged single women to window shop."
There's a distant European past for Leap Years.
One story places it in fifth century Ireland. St. Bridget appeals to St. Patrick to offer women the chance to ask men to marry them, Parkin wrote.
Another tale is focused on Queen Margaret of Scotland and a law she supposedly passed in 1228. It ordered a man reluctant to accept a woman's proposal to pay a fine. Or he could present her with a silk gown to make up for his bad attitude.
"I think that's all pretend," Parker said.
As for the existence of Leap Year itself, history has it that in 46 BCE, Julius Caesar came up with the adjustment. It was to ensure the seasons remain aligned with the calendar. Further adjustments were needed when the Gregorian calendar came along.
By the 1780s, there were Leap Year parties that allowed girls to ask boys for a dance. But only on the one night. Ellen Tucker Emerson described the experience in an 1860 letter to her dad, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
She said a promenade was held after the dancing, with the boys leaning on the girls' arms and being fanned.
"It was very funny and they all had a rousing time," she concluded.
One elite Leap Year party was held in New York City every four years. It started in 1924 and continued through 1968. It was one of the most prominent, held at times at the Ritz-Carlton. It was skipped just one time in that period, during World War II. The women outnumbered the men. There was a stag line and women were allowed to cut in on dances.
"Women were in control and had charge of the night," Parkin said.
Based on a longstanding Valentine's Day tradition of "using the mail to court and shame," penny postcard makers produced Leap Year cards in the early 20th century, Parkin said. Most used humor to "dissuade women from actually exercising their prerogative to propose."
Guns were common in the imagery as early as 1904, depicting women using them and other weapons such as bows and arrows, lassos and nets to snare men. The other tool depicted on the cards was money, with women holding bags of it to set their marriage traps.
Dix returned often to Leap Year issues throughout her nearly 50-year career, urging women to give up the idea of proposing by letter or postcard. She counseled them to come right out with it in person.
Though Leap Year was filled with biting humor, marriage was no joke to Dix. She had been pressured into marriage by her family and found herself supporting them both, due to her mate's mental illness and inability to hold a job. In 1928, she wrote:
"The right to pop the question is the only right that men have now that women do not possess. They have the same right that men have to vote, to own property, to attend institutions of higher learning, to follow any business or professional career for which they have the brains and a hankering."
Dix continued: "The only masculine right that is denied them is the right to choose their mates. And this is the greatest right of all, for the privilege of helping pick out the town dog-catcher or deciding on who is going to be President for the next four years is a poor thing compared with the privilege of picking out the father of your children and the man with whom you are going to have to live for the next forty years."

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What makes leap year special?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • haileyj-jen
    3/01/2016 - 02:50 p.m.

    Because you can keep all the season's in balance,Spring, Summer,Fall,and Winter. Every 4 years there is an presidential election .

  • litzyd-
    3/01/2016 - 06:49 p.m.

    Leap Year is special because its the time where everything is reserve so let's say an example that a it's okay fro a girl to ask boy out to the dance but only on that day. According to the text "By the 1780's, there were Leap Year parties that allowed girls to ask boys for a dance. But only on the one night." Which was the other way around so at the time girls were allowed to ask a boy to go to the dance with them but only on that night which only occurred every 4 years.

  • andrewe-dal
    3/01/2016 - 11:28 p.m.

    Women proposing to men,man I hope I don't get engaged on Leap Year.I want to be the man who goes down on one knee and proposes to my'lady and see my'lady's facial expression.I wan't for she to say yes and then we hug and plan our wedding.I got it all planed out.JUST KIDDING!

  • ryanh-ver
    3/02/2016 - 10:00 a.m.

    Why does this day happen if it isn't technically needed. It also only enforces somethings during that day.

  • matthewo-fig
    3/02/2016 - 12:38 p.m.

    I think the artical was cool because it tought me what a leap year is and when it comes

  • ellasonr-wal
    3/02/2016 - 01:56 p.m.

    Leap year is special because it only comes once every 4 years. I think that Leap Year is really cool and unique, because not a lot of people are born on Leap Year.

  • normanl-hol
    3/02/2016 - 04:04 p.m.

    I don't think that leap year is very special <(")

  • aidenb2-kut
    3/02/2016 - 04:15 p.m.

    I think this was helpful because I didn't know that woman did that also didn't think leap year did anything

  • simonak-3-bar
    3/02/2016 - 08:01 p.m.

    Leap years are special because " It includes a world of lore related to women -- gasp! -- popping the marriage question to men." This means that other than leap years having an extra day in February, its history has to do with love and marriage.
    My opinion on this article it that it is very interesting and I have learned some interesting facts from it.

  • livs-pla
    3/02/2016 - 10:39 p.m.

    The idea of a leap year has been one that has stood the test of time. Contrary to popular belief, there is more to this added day every four years. I always assumed the date was added to the calendar as a means to make up for the 4 extra minutes we are given every day. That thought may hold truth, but there is still more to February 29th than people would think. This day is meant to allow girls a bit of independence. Something like this is important to know so we as girls remember to appreciate how far society has come. Something as little as being able to ask a boy to the winter dance is not something to take for granted. As a citizen of this country, we should be aware of why we have the things we do and where they came from. Simply assuming the reason for a holiday and not actually questioning its purpose would be a poor execution of one's civil duties. Not every holiday is a scam brought upon us by marketing schemes and Hallmark.

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