... it is my birthday month ...
In the very old days the calendar was determined at the whim of the emperor. Numo Pompilius
added two months, January and February. Augustus Caesar took a day away from February and added
it to August, the month named for him, making his month as long as Julius Caesar’s July. When
the calendar came close to being correct by adding one day in every four (except for century
years not divisible by four), little February received the extra day.
In spite of its lack of days, February holds a remarkable list of birthdates. What do these
people have in common besides being conceived in the “lusty month of May.” Creativity in some
form has burst out of each. They cover the arts and the sciences in amazing ways. Just to name
them as a group is exciting. And to imagine them meeting in the same room is an adventure.
Many were writers like the Poet Laureate Langston Hughes, Charles Dickens creator of
extraordinary characters, Laura Ingalls Wilder who chronicled the settling of the American
frontiers. Jules Verne dreamed up fanasties of the future many of which have come true and
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote narrative poems telling of Paul Revere, Evangeline and Miles
Artistic talents like George Frideric Handel composer of sacred music, Marian Anderson from the
Metropolitan Opera who represented our country at the United Nations for seven years and Vaslov
Nijinsky who performed in the ballets Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty had February
birthdays. Two were great athletic stars: Babe Ruth, the Home Run King at 714 and swimmer Mark
Spitz with his seven gold medals won at the 1972 Olympics.
Our first president George Washington who passed the Bill of Rights and created the State,
Treasury and War Departments was born in February as was William Henry Harrison who had only
one month in office and more recently Ronald Reagan our oldest elected president. Abraham
Lincoln, perhaps our most admired president, was born on the very same day as Charles Darwin
who changed the thinking of the whole world.
Other movers and shakers were Charles Lindberg who made the first nonstop flight across the
Atlantic, Susan B Anthony who fought for women’s suffrage but did not live to see the
nineteenth amendment ratified, astronomer Nichola Copernicus who discovered that the sun, not
the earth, was the center of the solar system and Galileo Galilei who supported Copernicus’
idea, researched the speed of falling bodies and invented the telescope.
Another inventor in a class by himself was Thomas Alva Edison with 1100 patents including the
light bulb, the phonograph, the copier and the ticker tape machine. Also born in February were
Elizabeth Blackwell who became America’s first woman doctor and unique William Cody who worked
as a pony express rider, an army scout, Indian fighter and entertainer with his Buffalo Bill
Wild West Show.
February is Black History Month. The death of Frederick Douglass is commemorated in February.
He bought his freedom and became an important Abolitionist. His birth date is not known, not
uncommon among slaves.
Groundhog Day occurs in February as does Valentines Day. John Glenn took his first orbiting
flight in 1962. It was broadcast on the radio. I left my house at the same moment as Glenn left
Florida taking my sons for a check-up in Natick in the same time that Glenn traveled to the
coast of Africa. And on February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state. I am proud to
be a small part of this diverse month.
February 1, 2013