Monday, February 11, 2013

OK, besides Lincoln's Birthday, what is Tuesday?

Pretty much everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12. Some may also know that Charles Darwin was also born on February 12, too -- but even some of these may not realize that Darwin and Lincoln were born on the exact same February 12 -- February 12, 1809.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth was born on February 12, 1884. The eldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, Alice was a national celebrity when her father was in the White House. The color "alice blue" was associated with her; the song "The Alice Blue Gown" was inspired by her.

Alice married a Republican congressman, Nicholas Longworth, who rose to Speaker of the House before his death in 1931. Alice would survive her husband by nearly half a century, dying at the age of 96, in 1980.

During much of that time, Mrs. Longworth was among the most prominent hostesses in the world's biggest company town. She was famed for her caustic wit. On a settee in her living room was a pillow embroidered with one of her most famous sayings, "If you haven't got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me." When she died, President Jimmy Carter wrote, "She had style, she had grace, and she had a sense of humor that kept generations of political newcomers to Washington wondering which was worse — to be skewered by her wit or to ignored by her." (She'd refused to meet Carter, according to the linked Wikipedia biography, because she thought him lacking in social grace.)

Tuesday is also Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. In Chicago, we also call it Paczki Day.

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