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, including 2016. 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, 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 perpetuated stereotypes. The proposals were to happen via postcard. But many such cards turned the tables and poked mean fun at women instead.
 
The end result? Leap Year, according to Parkin, served to reinforce traditional gender roles.
 
Advertising also perpetuated 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, 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 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 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 on just 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, starting in 1924 and continuing through 1968. It was one of the most prominent, held at times at the Ritz-Carlton, and 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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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes leap year special?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (40)
  • ethanw-pro
    3/07/2016 - 12:15 p.m.

    a leap year is once in every four years therefore if someone is 40 but they were born on a leap year they would be 10 years old.

    • elijahh2-hei
      3/10/2016 - 12:17 p.m.

      Good job these things are true.

  • lukem-orv
    3/08/2016 - 01:19 p.m.

    Because it's a special day and only happens every four years. And it said in the article that it's a special day for women, too.

  • tjb-how
    3/09/2016 - 02:05 p.m.

    Leap year is so special because it only happens ever 4 years that it is exciting like the wold cup.

  • coreyh-hei
    3/10/2016 - 11:17 a.m.

    Leap year is special because it only happens every 4 years and it adds a extra day to it. Also i liked the article because there was some stuff that I didn't know about in the story it was ever interesting. Finally there is a lot of traditions why y'all leap year. That is leap year is special.

  • emmem-hei
    3/10/2016 - 11:23 a.m.

    What makes Leap Year so special is its an extra day of the year!Also Men proposed to Women and went out to dances on leap year.That became a traditon in 1900's.Then on Men and Women would do that every three years.

  • elijahh2-hei
    3/10/2016 - 12:16 p.m.

    Leap year is special because we get to live a whole other day. Also it only comes around once every four years.

  • shanias2-hei
    3/10/2016 - 12:30 p.m.

    Leap year is special because it doesn't happen every year. Leap year happens every 4 years.

  • aliyahd-hei
    3/10/2016 - 12:30 p.m.

    The calendar allighns with the seasons. It is also special because it comes every four years.

  • deshawnb-hei
    3/10/2016 - 01:59 p.m.

    very important to everybody in America in all in every bodys life everybody think that THIS IS IMPORTANT AND IT IS

  • batiar-3-bar
    3/11/2016 - 03:33 p.m.

    What makes leap year so special is not only that it comes once every four years on February 29, but on that day the roles of men and woman are reversed. On leap day men are not allowed to propose to women, but women are the ones to propose to men."Leap Year, according to Parkin, served to reinforce traditional gender roles." This article definitely taught me some new things, mainly the history behind leap year. One thing that I learned is that leap year goes all the back to the 46BCEs with Julius Caesar."As for the existence of Leap Year itself, history has it that in 46 BCE, Julius Caesar came up with the adjustment to ensure the seasons remain aligned with the calendar. Further adjustments were needed when the Gregorian calendar came along."The evolution of leap year has gone on for centuries,"By the 1780s, there were Leap Year parties that allowed girls to ask boys for a dance, but on just the one night. Ellen Tucker Emerson described the experience in an 1860 letter to her dad, Ralph Waldo Emerson."Leap year went on to be extravagant, by the 1900s parties all around the world were thrown, "One elite Leap Year party was held in New York City every four years, starting in 1924 and continuing through 1968. It was one of the most prominent, held at times at the Ritz-Carlton, and 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." Leap year is still celebrated by many all around the world to this day. I think leap year is a really cool and find the event of women proposing a fun twist.

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