June 8 is Hannah Duston Day

Today is Hannah Duston Day. On June 8, 1697, she became the first official heroine of the American colonies when her husband was awarded the sum of 25 pounds in her honor. As a woman, she was technically her husband’s property and had no right to collect the money herself, but we suppose it’s the thought that counts.

On March 16, 1697, Hannah, her infant daughter and a nursemaid named Mary Neff were kidnapped from her home in Haverhill, Massachusetts by a band of Abenaki “Indians.” Native Americans had been incorrectly labeled “Indians” by Christopher Columbus two centuries earlier when, due to a navigational error, he landed in the Antilles but named its indigenous people after the Indian Ocean he thought he’d reached. He was off by over 10,000 nautical miles.

Hannah and Mary were forced to march north with at least ten other hostages. Early on, the baby was pulled from Hannah’s arms and killed. For six weeks, they trudged along; those who couldn’t keep up were murdered.

On April 29, they stopped for the night in Boscawen, New Hampshire. While the Abenakis slept, Hannah and other prisoners killed ten of them, including six children, scalped each one, then escaped back to Haverhill.

hannah duston day

After returning home, she traveled with her husband to Boston, where she told her story to Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister who wrote it down and went on to recount it to rapt congregations throughout the colonies.

Their trip had another purpose. Hannah had intended to collect the bounty offered for each scalp she’d taken, not realizing that the state-sponsored payment program had expired. She and her husband delivered a petition to the Massachusetts General Court requesting a reward for “the just slaughter of so many of the Barbarians, as would by the law of the Province which [existed] a few months ago, have entitled the actors unto considerable recompense from the Publick.”

As a result, the court awarded Mr. Duston the sum of 25 pounds. It would seem we have now come full circle. In fact, we have arguably dismantled this holiday. But there is still more to be told.

As Mather’s sermon was rewritten and retold, it began to change; the murder of sleeping children was de-emphasized or dropped. By the 19th century, the doctrine of manifest destiny held that the expansion of the U.S. was virtuous, inevitable and directed by God, providing justification for such morally bankrupt acts as “Indian removal.”

Author Henry David Thoreau and poet John Greenleaf Whittier, among other storytellers of the era, seized upon Hannah Duston’s account, casting her as a quintessentially American heroine.

In 1874, a statue was erected on the island of Boscawen, New Hampshire, the first monument honoring a woman in the United States. In her right hand, she holds a hatchet; in the left, a bunch of scalps.

hannah duston day

Not to be outdone, the city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, erected a monument of its own in 1879. Although Duston holds no scalps, she brandishes a hatchet while pointing toward the ground. (Is she choosing the next sleeping person to kill and scalp?)

hannah duston day

Unsurprisingly, the statues are the subject of controversy but, for now, they still stand. The one in Boscawen is a bit worse for wear—someone shot off her nose.

hannah duston day


The New Hampshire Historical Society discontinued the sale of its Hannah Duston bobblehead after coming under harsh criticism in late 2014. But it’s still selling its limited edition bobblehead of Chief Passaconaway, the 17th-century English settler-loving sachem of the Penacook tribe.

While Hannah Duston Day is certainly an uncomfortable reminder of our nation’s history, perhaps it can also shine a light on the rationalization of prejudice and help us avoid hatred in the future.

[Note: Records use several different spellings of Duston, including Dustin, Dustan, even Durstan. For the sake of uniformity and because it’s the spelling used on both monuments, we have chosen to use Duston.]

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


June 4 is Old Maid’s Day

old maid's day

Miss Dorothy Babb

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!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

International Sex Workers Day

international sex workers day

Occupiers in Saint-Nizier Church, June 1975

Today is International Sex Workers Day, known in some countries as International Whores’ Day.

On June 2, 1975, approximately one hundred prostitutes in Lyon, France, took over the Saint-Nizier Roman Catholic church to protest dangerous working conditions.

While police harshly punished prostitutes, their johns were allowed to go free. They, along with the French government, didn’t seem to consider the women citizens worthy of legal protection.

After law enforcement failed to investigate the murders of two prostitutes, a group of them went on strike and occupied the church, demanding action and fair treatment. On June 10th, the police conducted a brutal raid, removing and arresting the protestors.

Despite the outcome, the women sparked a worldwide movement. International Sex Workers Day recognizes June 2nd as the anniversary of their efforts.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 26 is Sally Ride Day

sally ride day

Ride monitors control panels from pilot’s chair on the flight deck.

Today is Sally Ride Day. It celebrates the achievements of the astronaut, astrophysicist, engineer, philanthropist and author best known as the first American woman to travel to space. Today’s date honors her birthday on May 26, 1951.

Women weren’t considered for America’s space program until 1978. Ride was selected from the first group to apply after NASA announced it had changed its policy. Her training included learning to parachute jump, fly a jet plane, survive a water landing and handle extreme G-forces and weightlessness.

She was picked as a member of the space shuttle Challenger’s STS-7 crew, scheduled for liftoff on June 18, 1983. Commander Robert Crippen chose her in part because the mission required the use of a robotic arm that Ride had helped to develop.

At pre-flight news conferences, she was asked if spaceflight would affect her reproductive organs, if she planned to have children, how she would handle menstruation in space, if she would wear a bra and apply makeup. Asked if she cried on the job when under stress, Ride laughed and said, “Why don’t people ask (pilot) Rick (Hauck) these questions?”

Diane Sawyer of CBS News asked Ride to demonstrate how she would utilize the shuttle toilet’s new privacy curtain. On The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson joked that the flight would be delayed while she found a purse to match her shoes. At one NASA news conference, Ride said, “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”

On launch day, she focused on the task ahead. In an interview on the 25th anniversary of the flight, Ride recalled, “I didn’t really think about it that much at the time, but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first (American woman) to go into space.”

After its successful mission to deploy two communications satellites, Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, on June 24, 1983. At the time, Ride told reporters, “The thing that I’ll remember most about the flight is that it was fun. In fact, I’m sure it was the most fun I’ll ever have in my life.”

She returned to space on October 5, 1984. (Kathy Sullivan, a fellow member of the STS-41G crew, became the first American woman to walk in space.) Ride’s third flight was canceled after the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986. She served on the Presidential Commission that investigated the accident and returned in 2003 after the loss of the STS-107 crew to serve on NASA’a Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Ride left NASA in 1987 to become a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. Two years later, she became a physics professor and director of the University of California’s California Space Institute.

In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, which provides programs, materials and teacher training to schools in order to motivate students—especially girls and minorities—to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She wrote six science books for children. Intensely private about her personal life, she requested that NASA keep her health issues out of the press. She died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61.

“As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released shortly after her death.  “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools.”

Ride was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., which was presented to her life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy at a ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013.

“Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve,” said Obama, “and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come.”

American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling, New York Times
Sally Ride Remembered as an Inspiration to Others, NASA

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