It’s Presidents’ Day! That means lots of sales, right?!
Well, sort of, but like many holidays in America, there’s a deeper meaning behind the sales and price cuts. Let me give you a little history lesson. It started …
But what does this have to do with yarn crafting? I thought this was a crafty blog, not a history blog!
It is! Don’t worry, I’ll get to the crafty part. Just stick with me, you’ll see.
As I was saying,
“Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.”
Thank you, History.com, for summing it up so nicely.
But what I really care about are the First Ladies. They’re really the rock stars of this show. So many First Ladies were knitters or crocheters that, as Catherine Hollingsworth said, “… since the days of President George Washington, knitting has seen more days in the White House than any of these politicians ever will.” She goes on in her article to talk about how “Household virtues” such as knitting, crochet, embroidery, and fine sewing were considered patriotic because they were rebelling against English made goods. Martha Washington even helped with a drive to sell knitted socks to raise money for the troops!
Other First Ladies who knit include Edith Roosevelt, Grace Coolidge, and Lou Hoover. (We’ll talk about her later.) Eleanor Roosevelt dragged her knitting everywhere and was once introduced as “first knitter of the land,” a highly respectable introduction, if you ask me.
It was under Eleanor’s skillful hand that women were again united during WWII through knitting. As HistoryLink.org reminds us, “First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was often photographed knitting for the war effort or at least carrying her voluminous knitting bag. She effectively launched the World War II knitting effort at a Knit for Defense tea held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on September 31, 1941.”
This, of course, was only natural to knitters. “Many of the earliest knitters for World War II had knit for Victory as children or young adults during World War I. Knitting was for them a natural and immediate response to war. “The men hardly have time to grab their guns before their wives and sweethearts grab their needles and yarn,” claimed Time on July 21, 1940. Knitting provided warmth and comfort for the soldier and therapeutic distraction for the knitter.”
Even today, though not widely discussed, many people in or around the White House are yarn crafters. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is a skilled knitter.
So there you have it! Presidents and knitting! I’ll leave you with this little treasure.
According to Eddie Deezen, “FDR may have been the only U.S. president to have been photographed knitting, although it was probably a joke. Shortly after Franklin and Eleanor were married (in 1905), they posed for a photograph on the steps of FDR’s family estate in Hyde Park, New York. Eleanor was holding a cocktail glass and Franklin was knitting. Their expressions are totally serious (always the best indicator of a prank), and it is believed they were, in a sense, playfully “swapping” each other’s main interests.”
Bonus Fun Fact!
George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington’s birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, 1732.