Reprinted with the permission of Diane DeBlois, Ephemera Journal editor.


Based on a popularized legend in which St. Patrick granted to St. Bridget the right for all single women to propose marriage during leap years, the custom has produced ephemera as evidence of stereotypical old maids and bachelors and created vinegar valentines, ball invitations, dance cards, sheet music and calling cards. Between 1904 and 1916, at least 54 publishing houses created Leap Year postcards illustrated by more than 17 of the most talented artists of the day. Despite possible good intentions, the majority of the ephemera stereotypes single women as so desperate to marry that even unsuitable spouses, including alcoholics, hobos, penniless men, and burglars, were superior to life as an old maid.


Cultural History | History of Gender | Social History | Women's History