Today is Old Maid’s Day. It all began in Denton, TX, when Dorothy Babb, a Latin professor at North Texas State College (NTSC) jokingly complained she was sick of spending money on gifts for weddings, baby showers and Mother’s Day when, as a single woman, she only received presents at Christmas.
The school’s news director wrote an article seeking recognition for women who either couldn’t or wouldn’t get married. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared throughout the country. Denton Mayor Mark Hannah designated August 15th, 1950, as a day to honor unmarried women.
Although more flattering names such as glamor girls, unclaimed jewels or career girls were suggested, Miss Babb said she preferred to be called an old maid. She added that anybody who didn’t like the name could “just go and get married.”
The first year’s event included tea at the Denton Country Club, admission to a musical performance and a screening of The Three Stooges film, “The Brideless Groom.” Gifts were distributed to any unmarried woman who admitted to being an old maid.
By 1953, the famous old maids had received so many gifts from all over the country that they asked folks to send them instead to Girlstown in Whiteface, TX. Knowing they might never have children of their own, the ladies chose to help homeless girls.
In 1954, the celebration included a screening of Gone with the Wind and a telegram from Clark Gable. Pat Boone performed. Babb flew to Chicago to appear on a television show called “Welcome Travelers.” She’d been escorted by motorcade to Love Field where the college’s saber drill team formed an honor guard as she got on the plane.
The following year, Governor Allan Shivers issued a proclamation affirming August 15th as Old Maid’s Day. Over time, the celebrations grew smaller. The last documented event took place in 1965. In recent years, the practice has been revived by fans of odd holidays and moved to June 4th.
In our research, we have been unable to determine why Old Maid’s Day returned. Perhaps it’s because the expectations of women that the holiday poked fun at 66 years ago haven’t changed much. Maybe the date has been moved forward so single teachers can clean up on gifts before the school year ends. Whatever the reason, have a happy Old Maid’s Day!