One June day in 1948, Miss Marion Richards of Norristown walked through the Tyson Shirt Company handing out bouquets of roses and daisies to all the “Old Maids” in the factory. It began as a friendly joke among friends and an excuse go out. Eventually, “Old Maid’s Day” drew national attention. As Miss Richards told the Times-Herald a year later, “There is a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day. Why can’t we have an Old Maid’s Day.” She pointed out that unmarried women often were the ones who cared for elderly parents or other family members and that they made many professional contributions to society. It was not a lonely hearts club, but a day to celebrate the freedom of being a single woman.
Word about Old Maid’s Day quickly spread, and June 4th was set as it’s date. In the years that followed Marion’s initial idea, the celebration became a dinner for unmarried women age 30 and up at Helen’s Restaurant in Norristown. Richards received hundreds of letters and two marriage proposals (she declined).
In 1956, the women involved with Old Maid’s Day organized on behalf of single ladies throughout the country. The federal government was considering allowing widows to collect their survivor benefits at age 62. Old Maids from across the country wrote to their representatives calling for benefits to begin at 62 for single women. They said that they were not asking for a handout, pointing out that they had earned the benefits themselves. As they put it, “62 for us, too!”
Some suggested Richards start a day for bachelors. Her reply was that they should take of themselves. In fact, a club for bachelors had existed in Norristown in the late nineteenth century. A 1949 article by “Norris” (Edward Hocker) describes a club called “Bachelors in Clover” which started in 1885 and held monthly meetings in ice cream parlors. Membership was limited to 12 and a fellow had to leave when he married. It was a silly group that often lampooned popular speakers at its regular meetings and its annual banquet, though it did send food to Russia during a famine in the late nineteenth century. The club only lasted about ten years.
Marion Richards continued to celebrate Old Maid’s Day until her death in 1963. The holiday can still be found on internet sites about obscure holidays. Have you ever celebrated Old Maid’s Day? Did you know its Montgomery County connection?