direct from the Muscleheaded Post Card collection.
If you grew up in the United States before 1990,
Girls are encouraged to invite guys to dance with them —
instead of the usual arrangement —
—- and I do remember it produced some surprising matches.
Females, as we all know,
— tend to use different attraction/selection criteria for mating than males,
which makes the dynamic all the more interesting.
— starting in the late 1930’s.
Apparently, in the comic strip,
single women had the option of pursuing and marrying a single man of their choice, on a single day in November each year.
Here’s the original strip from 1937 explaining how it all started.
Of course, this isn’t really where the idea originated.
It’s actually drawn from several much older Celtic traditions, from at least 800 years ago–
which gave women the prerogative to propose marriage–
— but only during leap years, which only occur every four years.
( 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, etc)
In some places, this was narrowed down further
to only one day in those years —
the ‘extra day’ —
the Leap Day.
A totally accurate picture of how and where this tradition, “The Ladies Privilege”, developed is clouded by time and mythology —
Oral tradition has it that it was invented by Ireland’s Saint Patrick,
as a way of marrying off nuns who had tired of their cloister,
Several writers refer to a 13th century Scottish Law,
written by the guardians of Queen Margaret,
(who was only 5 years old at the time)
providing specific penalties for turning such a proposal down —
one pound, a rose, a kiss, and a pair of leather gloves.
In the 16th century, single women were encouraged to wear pants during leap year,
—- at least according to a play popular during the time.
And in the 19th, it’s said that red petticoats became de rigueur attire for ladies wishing to celebrate the Leap Year with a conquest.
All we know for sure is that it’s an old tradition,
Interesting postcards from that era,
on the Leap Year theme, abound —
Usually they are done in a tongue in cheek style indicating that while the tradition still existed,
— it was not practiced in any serious way.
No longer did a man have to pay a fine–
but it was still considered to be a bringer of bad luck,
and not to mention,
very bad form,
to turn down a lady’s proposal during leap year.
Overall, it’s a pretty interesting and amusing theme…
Everybody seems rather desperate,
to either ensnare,
But there’s also a whispered nuance of sexuality to some of the cards,
and even a secret thrill of implied female dominance, perhaps.
I can’t help but wonder……
Did the tradition of the Leap Year Ladies Privilege itself had any real effect on society at large ?
I doubt it.
The revival of interest in the tradition died off around the time women received the right to vote in the US,
—- and it’s little remembered today,
except in the Sadie Hawkins tradition.
— in projecting a society that would be out of kilter, full of obstreperous females and weak, emasculated males.
There were certainly cards issued during that era that were much less subtle in expressing that very fallacious, but prevalent idea —
But as far as these Leap Year cards were concerned, their main function was entertainment, and not social propaganda.
I do know that many famous couples started out with the lady proposing —
Including Queen Victoria of England, who described the scene in her dairy:
“At about half past 12 I sent for Albert; he came to where I was alone, and after a few minutes I said to him, that I thought he must be aware of why I wished him to come here, and that it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wished (to marry) ; we embraced each other over and over again, and he was so kind, so affectionate… I told him I was quite unworthy of him and kissed his dear hand.”
Zsa Zsa Gabor claimed that she had proposed to every one of her nine husbands, stating:
and Jennifer Hudson are other women who have taken the lead in proposing marriage —-
It’s just no big deal, anymore.
Why should it be?
Men lose nothing by letting women do what makes them happy —
Hell, along the way,
they might end up making us happy, too.
Ya never know.
And it is certainly fun to see
these old cards and understand
the context in which they were a part.