Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, George (I Think)

Mary Todd Lincoln took a break from the hereafter and visited a packed audience at BHPL today. OK, so it was really a performance by Mary Ryzuk of Traveling Stage, which included real tea. Not being a Jersey librarian by birth, I didn't dare tell the first lady about the no food or drink rule.

Did you know that some of Mary Todd Lincoln's siblings fought for the Confederacy? You can read about it in House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a House Divided by War by University of Georgia historian Stephen Berry (at 973.7 BER in nonfiction).

Mary's bizarre behavior made her a controversial first lady. Her son Robert had her declared insane and committed to an asylum in 1875, which you can read about in Barbara Hambly's novel The Emancipator's Wife (at FIC HAM in fiction). Critics called Hambly's book "enthralling" and "compelling."

When I booked the Mary Todd Lincoln program as a (somewhat early) celebration of Presidents' Day, I didn't know about the holiday kerfuffle. What you call the holiday on Monday, February 21 is a matter of some confusion. The reference book Chase's Calendar of Events lists both: 1) Presidents' Day and 2) Washington, George: Birthday Observance (Legal Holiday).

To make things more confusing, when Washington was born, the Julian calendar was in effect. His birthday, February 11, became February 22 when Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. The federal goverment celebrates his birthday on the third Monday of February. If I were Washington, I'd celebrate my birthday on all three of those days.

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