September History Hits: Famous September Birthdays

According to the U.S. Social Security Administrations, of the 10 most popular birthdays among Americans, 9 of them are in the month of September. If you have a September birthday, you are in good company. This month has seen the births of hosts of famous figures throughout history, including politicians, artists, and innovators.

Here are a few influential people born in the month of September:

Marquis de Lafayette was born September 6, 1757 to a noble family in France. At the young age of 19, Lafayette traveled to America to fight with the colonists in the American Revolution. He was a close friend of George Washington and convinced the French to send aid to the colonists, leading to the defeat of the British army. He was also an influential figure in the French Revolution and composed the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” the credo adopted by the revolutionary National Assembly.

Jane Addams was born September 6, 1860. The second woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Addams is seen as a pioneer in the field of social work. She opened Hull House in Chicago which was part childcare center, part night school, public kitchen, gymnasium, and library. She worked with boards and charities in the Chicago area to educate people about childbirth and proper hygiene and sanitation.

Agatha Christie, born September 15, 1890, is considered the best-selling novelist of all time. Christie wrote 74 novels, most of them detective novels. Some of her most notable were The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Murder on the Orient Express, each featuring her iconic main character, Hercule Poirot. Her personal life was almost as mysterious as her books—Agatha Christie famously disappeared for 10 days in 1926, though nobody knows exactly where she went or why. Christie’s novels and characters have been adapted in television, movies, books, and plays. Known as the “Queen of Crime,” she helped to pioneer the detective trope that is so popular today.

Jim Henson was born on September 24, 1936. Henson became interested in puppetry while in college. He and his wife, Jane, created a show called Sam and Friends that appeared on a local television channel. It was as part of this show that Henson first created the iconic character Kermit the Frog. His characters became more and more popular, appearing on commercials and other nationally famous television shows. In 1969, Henson signed with Children’s Television Workshop, and they created the still-running children’s television show, Sesame Street.  Here, Henson created characters recognized throughout the world, like Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch. In the 1970s, Henson created The Muppet Show. Kermit, Miss. Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo won Henson worldwide renown and several major entertainment awards.

These are just a few of the many notable people born in the month of September who have left great legacies across the world. What other famous figures born in September can you think of?

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Happy Birthday to America’s First Female Lawyer

May 23rd marks the birth of the woman who was to become the first female lawyer in the US, Belle Aurelia “Arabella” Babb Mansfield.  Born in 1846 in the Benton Township of Des Moines County in Iowa, Arabella was influenced by her parents who valued education and her older brother, Washington Babb, who was also a lawyer.

Arabella Mansfield
Arabella Mansfield, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The interesting part of her story is that she never actually went to law school. After graduating valedictorian of her class at Iowa Wesleyan College, she taught school for a year and married her college sweetheart, John Mansfield.  She then went on to “read the law” in her older brother’s law practice where she worked as an apprentice.

She took the bar exam and passed on June 15,1869 despite the fact that women were legally prohibited. In Iowa, at the time only “white, male citizens” were eligible for admittance to the bar. 

Mansfield argued that women should be allowed to practice law to the Iowa Bar Association and was admitted.  Apparently, she impressed the committee as they wrote:

Your committee takes unusual pleasure in recommending the admission of Mrs. Mansfield, not only because she is the first lady who has applied for this authority in the state, but because in her examination she has given the very best rebuke possible to the imputation that ladies cannot qualify for the practice of law.

Iowa Bar Association

Although admitted to the bar, Mansfield earned a living teaching first at Iowa Wesleyan College and later at DePauw University where she served as the Dean of the school of Art and then later as the Dean of the school of Music.

She was also, notably, active in the suffragette movement and knew famous activist, Susan B. Anthony as they worked to pass the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote.

To learn more about Arabella Mansfied, visit these sources: