Who you calling an old maid?
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Rock On1 of 11
By Brienne Walsh
Believe it or not, June 4 is Old Maid's Day. We're taking back the negative term that conjures a priggish woman in a Minnie Pearl hat. Find out when the notion of the old maid began and see how it has evolved over the years.
Spinning Your Wheels?2 of 11
Before unmarried women of a certain age were called old maids, they were known as spinsters. The term dates back to 16th-century England, where spinning wool was one of the few occupations available to women who weren't supported by a husband or family. Hence, the spinster moniker.
Play Your Cards Right3 of 11
It's unclear where the term "old maid" originated, although the popular children's card game with the same name dates back to the 17th century. In the game, the player left holding the old-maid card at the end loses.
Free Love4 of 11
In the 19th century, women were usually considered well beyond their marrying years by the time they turned 30—gulp. Meanwhile, women who did marry had few rights—if their husbands were abusive or unfaithful, divorce was almost impossible. Long before the women's lib movement, feminist leader Victoria Woodhull began preaching the idea of "free love." Because a divorce was so difficult to obtain, she advocated avoiding marriage entirely.
Novel Idea5 of 11
In 1924, Edith Wharton published her novella The Old Maid, about an unmarried woman in 1850s New York with an illegitimate child. In 1939, the Wharton book was made into a movie starring Bette Davis.
Ladies' Choice6 of 11
By 1919, women had won the right to vote and enjoyed newfound social freedoms. Famous flappers and icons like Coco Chanel had many lovers and never married—by choice.
Oh, Baby!7 of 11
After World War II, Americans had old-maid anxiety—many worried that women who had lost their sweethearts would choose to stay unmarried out of loyalty. In actuality, initiatives like the GI Bill provided men and women with incentives to buy houses and start families, resulting in a boom in both marriages and children.
Flower Power8 of 11
While there are a number of tales about how Old Maid's Day began, the most popular says that it started as a prank at a shirt factory in Norristown, Penn., on June 4, 1948. Allegedly, a man named Marlon Richards placed a greeting card and a corsage of daisies and roses on the worktables of every unmarried women over the age of 30. The response to the holiday was so unexpectedly positive—and received so much press—that people around the country adopted the tradition of celebrating unmarried women on June 4.
Ladies Choice9 of 11
In 1963, Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl encouraged women to become financially independent and experience sex outside of marriage. The book sold 2 million copies in three weeks, making it a cultural sensation. It empowered women to make different choices with their lives—and even to forgo marriage altogether.
What's the Rush?10 of 11
Today, more and more women are waiting to walk down the aisle, with a median marrying age of 27, compared to 20 in the 1950. Not that you're past your prime if you're not hitched by 28—Carrie didn't marry Mr. Big until she was 40-ish. And there are plenty of unwed female role models who couldn't be further from the old-maid stereotype: Diane Kruger, age 36, Cameron Diaz, 40, Jacqueline Bisset, 68.
All the Single Ladies11 of 11
Reclaim the term and celebrate Old Maid's Day with all your single—and happy—friends. To really get into the spirit, whip up an old maid's pie—also called Saturday pie or scrap pie: Just throw together all of the week's leftovers and bake them in a crust. Of course, you could always just serve cupcakes.
NEXT ON GLO: The 7 Best Things About Being A "PANK"