Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

February 29, 1956

On February 29, 1956, the Chicago Defender encouraged single women to take advantage of an old leap year tradition. “Leap year again, girls,” Sarah Lemon wrote, “and here’s your golden opportunity to propose! This day of days which comes only once in four years has its own code of ethics, the major portion of same being, ‘Any thing goes on this day. You may say anything whether it is subtle or not if it will promote your welfare and your objective—that is, if your objective is marriage’” (click to view PDF).

I missed the 2010 Amy Adams comedy Leap Year, so I had never heard of this tradition which apparently dates back to fifth-century Ireland. I found several references to this custom in the black press, including:

“Camden Bachelor-Girls Not Going to ‘Pop’ Question,” Philadelphia Tribune, February 29, 1940. This article listed the names, parentage, addresses, and phone numbers for several single women, after profiling bachelors a few days earlier.

“Now—Or Wait Four Years,” Chicago Defender, February 29, 1956. “This is February 29 and if our male readers don’t immediately grasp the significance of the date, our women readers—those who are not married—will certainly remind them before the day is over.”

“Leap Year,” Los Angeles Sentinel, February 29, 1968. “The female of the species is not easily dissuaded from what she wants. She does not—if she ever did—restrict her manhunting to the Leap Year open season. She merely devised methods more subtle than all-out pursuit, but lets the man think he is the pursuer.”

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