In the Merry Merry Month of May
I have always loved the month May. In the area of the U.S. in which I grew up May was filled with blossoms. Probably due to being a May baby, the lilac blossoms, peony blossoms, trillium, lily of the valley, hepatica, and so many more seemed like they heralded the arrival of my personal holiday.
May is a boom time for blooms. What is blooming where you live? Saguaros are not quite blooming,yet, a bit early, where I live. But many cactuses are in blossom. What is the the official flower of your state? (
May is welcomed in with celebration, or at least it once was. May Day, May 1st, was a time for festivals, maypoles, may baskets, May Queen, washing in the early morning dew so you will be beautiful throughout the year. May Day traditions lived on in the Rural United States with pageants, Queens, and poles through the early part of the 20th Century. (6 prompts.) And then of course there is the enigmatic Led Zeppelin lyric involving, “a spring clean for the May Queen.”
And of course everywhere but the U.S., or so it seems, observes Labor Day on May 1. International Workers of the World and all that.
Beltane was observed in Celtic regions on May 1st and most likely was forebearer of the more recent May Day. Beltane is the halfway point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Beltane would be the beginning of Summer in any calendar that considers the Summer Solstice to be the height of Summer, the longest day, and often the hottest day of the year.
Mothers and Others
May closes the contemporary rituals of Spring that celebrate the female and renewal. We have those? Yes we do! International Women’s Day, March 8th, starts the contemporary celebration of women. Earth Day follows as the second node of this new tripartite set of events. Mother’s Day of course provides the third point.
Mother’s Day as a “card and cake” celebration is a recent invention and not one ever intended to be celebrated so superficially. I previously wrote about the Two Mothers of Mother’s Day. Both trace to the post-Civil War era when the U.S. was still mourning the staggering loss of life in that war and dealing with the self loathing associated with the slaughter of kindred. But as that article states the momentum toward creating a Mother’s Day that remembers the sentiments behind its conception.
In the meanwhile, let us remember all mothers throughout time. The love of mothers through time is proved time and again, most recently in the 4,800 years old remains of a mother and child found in Taiwan.
Now moving from scenes of birth to celebrations of birth, let us turn to women worthy of a few words by you, if you are so inclined:
The Birthday Girls of May
Most of the following information is taken from a wonderful site you should visit: The National Women’s History Project.
May 4, 1916 (2006) – Jane Jacobs, journalist, author, and urban studies activist, wrote The Death and Life of the Great American Cities in 1961. She opposed the “urban renewal” that demolished supposed urban blight and destroyed vibrant, urban, and chaotic communities.
May 5, 1942 (1998) – Tammy Wynette, country music singer, after first success in 1967 had more than 20 songs go to #1, Grammy Award for “Stand By Your Man” (1968)
May 5, 1864 (1922) – Elizabeth Seaman, pen name “Nellie Bly,” investigative journalist, wrote expose of mental asylum (1887), set a record for circling the world in 72 days (1890)
May 11, 1894 (1991) – Martha Graham, modern dance innovator and choreographer, first dancer to perform at the White House
May 12, 1907 (2003) – Katharine Hepburn, actor, performed for more than 60 years, won four Academy Awards for best actress including “The Philadelphia Story” and “On Golden Pond,” named top American screen legend of all time by American Film Institute (1999)
May 18, 1970 – Tina Fey, television writer, producer, and actor, first female head writer for “Saturday Night Live” (1999), creator of television series “30 Rock”, youngest winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (2010)
May 26, 1951 (2012) – Sally Ride, astrophysicist, first American woman astronaut
May 26, 1924 (1977) – Thelma Hill, dancer, choreographer, educator, co-founder of the New York Negro Ballet Company (1954), one of the founders of the dance troupe that became the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, after an injury focused on teaching dance
May 27, 1907 (1964) – Rachel Carson, scientist, environmentalist, and author of several books. “The Silent Spring” which became a cornerstone of the modern environmental protection movement was her most successful and influential work.
Women’s Achievements of May
May 1, 1950 – Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. named Library of Congress’s Consultant in Poetry (later called Poet Laureate) in 1985
May 8, 1914 – Anna Garvis succeeds in having an official day honoring her mother and all the mothers that held Mother’s Friendship Day Gatherings after the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson signs a Proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
May 21, 1932 – Amelia Earhart Putnam becomes the first woman to complete a solo-transatlantic flight by flying 2,026 miles
May 29, 1977 – Janet Guthrie becomes the first woman to qualify for and complete the Indy 500 car race
The music prompt for this month is an image by John Paul Filo – Pulitzer Prize, 1971 – of an event at Kent State on May 4, 1970 that prompted Neil Young of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to write, “Ohio.”
Now go write or record up a storm about these folks, you, and/or the month of May!
Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski
I remember May Day Festivals when I was in elementary school. It’s a shame they are no longer celebrated. I loved all the history in this post. Happy Birthday!