Are you a young maiden just wishing your man would finally pop the question? Has the handsome lad down the street caught your fancy, but seems completely oblivious to your pining affections? Not a problem, ladies! Today is leap day, which makes 2012 your lucky year.
American culture was, and still is, a stew of different traditions carried over from the homelands of dozens of cultures. One of these fabulous traditions, stemming from the British Isles, was that of the “ladies’ law” of leap year. This newspaper from February 1888 explains the rules of this female-favoring year:
Not only may a woman propose to a man in a leap year, but there’s a bonus for her if he refuses. The same article goes on to explain that any man who turns down a woman seeking marriage in a leap year must compensate her with a new silk dress. Provided, of course, that she show off a little of her scarlet petticoat, just to be sure her intentions are clear.
Traditionally, the material compensation for a refused proposal varied. In thirteenth-century Scotland, supposedly, the required recompense was anything from £1, to a kiss, to the previously mentioned silk gown. In Denmark, the uncooperative man must present twelve pairs of gloves. And in Finland, the disappointed lady must be given enough fabrics to make a skirt. The risk of receiveing proposals all year long was too great for some men, with such weighty fines demanded of them if they refused. So, in many cultures, the “ladies’ law” was restricted to only one twenty-four hour period: leap day.
As it finishes off, the nineteenth-century column offers one last bit of encouragement:
…And don’t forget to wear your red petticoat!
Enjoy learning about the day-to-day activities from years past? Find more interesting tidbits in Fold3′s Newspapers collection. Or, click on the above images to see the complete Ladies’ Law article and more.