Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Berthoud man accepted 1912 Leap Year marriage proposal

January 03, 2020 | Then and Now

By Mark French

The Surveyor

On January 5, 1912, a headline in the San Francisco tabloid heralded, “Woman Proposed as Clock Struck 1912.” The accompanying article noted, “Miss Georgia Stebbins of Denver, who today was married to George W. Markley of Berthoud, is believed to be the first woman in Colorado to take definite and final action as regards to woman’s leap year rights. ‘I waited until 12 o’clock New Year’s Eve and then proposed,’ said the bride today. He consented. ‘I believed, as I started the whole affair. It was up to me to carry out the whole program and I brought Mr. Markley to Boulder and we were married.’”

One week later the Berthoud Bulletin added, “George W. Markley and bride, who was Miss Georgia Stebbins of Boulder until their marriage on January 5, are here visiting Mr. Markley’s parents, W.G. Markley and wife. The groom has been in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for some time, returning to Colorado just a few days before his marriage. The young couple will likely make their home in Denver.”

Nothing further is presently known about George and Georgia Markley.

Like 1912, the year 2020 is a Leap Year when a Leap Day is added to the end of February to correct drift in the Gregorian calendar. For that reason every four years there is a February 29.

Leap Year customs and traditions date back to ancient times. According to Irish legend St. Brigid of Kildare struck a deal with Saint Patrick—the patron saint of Ireland—to allow women to propose to men on Leap Day (February 29) for good luck.  Supposedly Brigid then dropped to her knee and proposed to Patrick. He refused, however, kissing her cheek and offering her a silk gown to soften his rejection. As a result an old Irish tradition dictated that any man refusing a woman’s Leap Day proposal must give her a silk gown.

The tradition expanded and in many European countries, it became socially acceptable for a woman to propose at any time during a Leap Year.

In the early 1900s when Boulder’s Georgia Stebbins asked Berthoud’s George Markley for his hand in marriage, social convention still suggested that women who proposed marriage were aggressive and unfeminine. That changed later when an age of increasing equality for women got underway.

At one time in Scotland it was considered unlucky for a person to be born on Leap Day (February 29). Longtime Berthoud residents will recall G.S. “Stoney” Walker who operated Stoney’s Shoe shop at 549 3rd Street.  Stoney was a Leap Day baby or “leaper” who only celebrated his birthday every four years. Technically he was only one-quarter of his true age since he had fewer birthday anniversaries than his age in years.

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