Some of our favorite historical figures were born in the month of May. We couldn't possibly name them all, but here are just a handful whose lives we'll be celebrating.
1. May 3, 1903: Bing Crosby
This legendary crooner might be responsible for the Canadian Tuxedo. According to Levi’s Vintage Clothing, Bing Crosby was turned away at a Canadian hotel in 1951 because his group was dressed in head-to-toe denim. The hotel staff changed their minds when they realized Crosby was a celeb, but the news spread, and designers at Levi Strauss and Co. ended up making the star a custom jean tuxedo jacket to ensure that he was always appropriately dressed, even in denim.
2. May 4, 1929: Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is one of only 12 EGOTs—someone who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. Unfortunately, the Grammy, Emmy, and subsequent EGOT title came posthumously in the year following her 1993 death.
3. May 5, 1864: Nellie Bly
The pioneering journalist—real name: Elizabeth Jane Cochrane—is best known for traveling around the world in 72 days (inspired by Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days) and for faking insanity to get committed to a mental institution in the name of investigative journalism.
4. May 6, 1915: Orson Welles
The outspoken actor, writer, and Citizen Kane director once told Dick Cavett, “The world leader that really came to nothing as far as my memory was concerned was Hitler ... in the days when the Nazis were just a comical kind of minority party of nuts that no one took seriously at all ... the man sitting next to me was Hitler. He made so little impression on me I can’t remember a second of it. He had no personality whatsoever.”
5. May 9, 1860: J.M. Barrie
The author left the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, so Disney had to get animation rights from them to make the now-famous movie. The hospital didn’t receive any money from merchandise sales as those weren’t included in the original contract, but Disney has since compensated them by helping raise more than $14.5 million for the hospital.
6. May 11, 1904: Salvador Dalí
Speaking of Disney, the world’s most famous surrealist Salvador Dalí was once employed by The Mouse in 1945, but it ended up being a brief collaboration: the project, a film called Destino, folded after just three months in production. Fifty-four years later, Disney’s nephew Roy revived the project and a team of French animators were recruited to produce a short film based on Dalí’s notes and storyboards.
7. May 12, 1820: Florence Nightingale
Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing, a public health advocate, a statistician who helped develop the polar area diagram, and a speaker of French, German, and Italian. She was also a total cat lady. She owned 60 cats throughout her life and evidence of her affection for the feline species can be seen to this day: Some of her pets left ink paw prints on her letters.
8. May 19, 1930: Lorraine Hansberry
The Raisin in the Sun playwright was very close with singer Nina Simone. After Hansberry died, Simone wrote “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” (after Hansberry's play of the same name) to honor her friend.
9. May 26, 1920: Peggy Lee
Bonnie Erickson, the creator behind Miss Piggy, originally called her Miss Piggy Lee after Peggy Lee, her mother’s favorite singer. The name got shortened before the character made it to air because Erickson was worried that Lee would be insulted.
10. May 26, 1951: Sally Ride
Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 (she was also the youngest American to ever do so), but her most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure while dealing with absurd and offensive questions from the media. In a June 1983 profile for People, journalist Michael Ryan recounted a few of the worst offenders, such as “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” and “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” To the latter, Ride replied, “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"
11. May 29, 1903: Bob Hope
As the comedian was dying in 2003, his wife Dolores asked where he’d like to be buried. In reply, Hope uttered his last words: “Surprise me.”