Some of our favorite historical figures were born in March. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the famous lives we'll be celebrating.
1. Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) // March 2, 1904
As a student at Dartmouth during Prohibition, Geisel was caught hosting a gin-soaked get-together and was banned from the school's humor magazine, the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. To keep publishing, he used his middle name as a pen name: "Seuss." The "Dr." came later.
2. Jean Harlow // March 3, 1911
Actress Jean Harlow became a breakout star in 1930s Hollywood, where she earned the nickname the Blonde Bombshell. She got small parts in movies beginning in 1928, and became famous when she appeared in the 1930 Howard Hughes film Hell's Angels while still a teenager. Hughes had been working on the film for some time with actress Greta Nissen, but when 1927's The Jazz Singer introduced sound technology to film, Hughes decided Hell's Angels would be a talkie. Nissen had a thick Norwegian accent and was dropped from the production. Upstart Harlow, in contrast, had a pleasant and relatively deep voice. The following year, she starred in six movies. Harlow went on to appear in a total of 43 movies, but her career was still brief. She died of kidney failure in 1937 at just 26 years old.
3. Elizabeth Barrett Browning // March 6, 1806
English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning began writing poetry as soon as she learned to write, at age 4. Browning's most familiar poem is Sonnet 43, also known as "How Do I Love Thee?," but her larger body of work had a huge influence on poets like Emily Dickinson and friend Edgar Allan Poe. Like many writers and artists of the time, Browning was addicted to the opioid drug laudanum, which she began taking at age 15 after an injury. By the time she met her future husband, poet Robert Browning, she was taking an astounding 40 drops of laudanum every day.
4. Gabriel García Márquez // March 6, 1927
Gabriel García Márquez, the author of Love in the Time of Cholera, was once a starving young reporter for a newspaper in his native Colombia, writing novels in his spare time. When he wrote a series about shipwrecked Colombian sailors and connected their deaths with corruption in the navy, it made him an instant enemy of the government. The newspaper sent García Márquez abroad, and he lived in Europe for years. He later worked as a journalist in Cuba and the U.S., but was living in Mexico in 1967 when his breakout novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was published. For the next several decades, his novels told stories of characters who were affected by politics, culture, and the forces of history. García Márquez was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.
5. Jack Kerouac // March 12, 1922
Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac dropped out of Columbia University in 1941 after an injury ended his football career. He spent 10 days in the Marine Corps in 1942, then returned to New York, where he met aspiring writers Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. While he wrote continuously, Kerouac didn't make much money until his 1957 novel On the Road was published, six years after he wrote it. The acclaim for that novel was the highlight of Kerouac's literary career, although he wrote extensively afterward. What you might not know about Kerouac is that he was obsessed with fantasy baseball, and even invented his own version. Kerouac created a series of cards with teams, diagrams and possible outcomes, which he could deal to play imagined games all by himself. It was a hobby he hid from his friends at the time.
6. Albert Einstein // March 14, 1879
Einstein’s birthday is easy to remember because March 14 (3/14) is also Pi Day. The theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity spent his childhood in Germany, but left Europe when Hitler came to power in 1933 and became an American citizen in 1940. As a kid, Einstein did have a few brushes with authority in school, but the persistent legends about him getting bad grades aren't true. The rumor of his failing marks in math came about because his school switched its grading system. In one term, a grade of one on a scale of one to six was the highest grade, then in the next term the scale was reversed, and a six became the highest grade. Amateur historians are to blame for the mix-up. Sorry, Al.
7. Edith Nourse Rogers // March 19, 1881
Edith Nourse Rogers is remembered for being one of the first women to serve in Congress, but she had an extremely accomplished career long before she joined the House of Representatives. Rogers was a nursing volunteer with the YMCA, the Red Cross, and at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center during World War I. In 1922, President Warren G. Harding appointed her to a position visiting veterans and inspecting military hospitals—one she held with presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. In 1925, her husband, Representative John Jacob Rogers, died, and Rogers was tapped to serve out his term. She was reelected again and again, eventually becoming one of the longest-serving congresswomen in history. Rogers championed veterans and veteran rights throughout her career and co-authored legislation that created the Women's Army Corps and the GI Bill.
8. Moms Mabley // March 19, 1894
Moms Mabley was the first female comedian to be featured at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater, and went on to appear on its stage more than any other performer in history.
9. Fred Rogers // March 20, 1928
Fred Rogers worked in television from 1951 until his death in 2003. Thirty-three of those years were spent as the host of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, which means that more than one generation of children grew up knowing the gentle and generous TV host. Strangely, he went to work in television because he hated it: Rogers was appalled at the banality and violence of TV programming and wanted to use the medium to instead promote education and understanding. He was also an advocate for public television, and testified before Congress about the potential for TV to create more productive citizens.
10. Johann Sebastian Bach // March 21, 1685
The German composer Johann Sebastian Bach was renowned as a gifted organist during his lifetime, but the genius of his compositions was only recognized after his death. Bach held many positions during his career. In 1708, he went to work as a musician for the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar. Within five years, he was up for a promotion to capellmeister, a.k.a. the director of music. Bach was passed over in favor of the retiring director's son, which made him so angry that he left to work for a rival court. The Duke of Sachsen-Weimar was so angry over losing his organist that he had Bach jailed for 30 days. Bach used the time to write more music.
11. Harry Houdini // March 24, 1874
Houdini was famous for debunking mystics, but he held out some hope that the living could communicate with the dead. So he and his wife Bess made a pact that whoever died first would try to reach out from beyond the grave using a secret code derived from their private stage language. Houdini died first, and Bess held séances until 1936. Barring one instance, when a medium claimed to have received the message "Rosabelle- answer- tell-pray, answer- look- tell- answer, answer- tell," which spelled out “BELIEVE” in the couple’s code and was quickly dismissed as a hoax, Houdini never came through.
12. Flannery O’Connor // March 25, 1925
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Mary Flannery O’Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories—many of which are considered master examples of the Southern Gothic style—before she died at age 39. The prolific writer also kept a prayer journal, and a collection of her correspondence was released in 2007. O'Connor was diagnosed with lupus in 1952, and after living in Iowa and Connecticut, she returned to her family farm to live the last 12 years of her life. There, she raised a flock of around 100 peacocks (and peahens). O'Connor had always been fascinated with birds, and even used peacocks as stand-ins for Christ in her work.
13. Patty Smith Hill // March 27, 1868
Patty Smith Hill, in collaboration with her sister Mildred Hill, wrote possibly the best-known song in the world: "Happy Birthday." Patty was the principal at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School at the time she penned the lyrics in 1893; Mildred wrote the music. The song was originally "Good Morning To All," but Hill adapted the lyrics for other occasions, including birthdays. The song went on to have a litigious history, which Hill blamed on her publishing company. It is now in the public domain.
14. Liz Claiborne // March 31, 1929
In 1986, Liz Claiborne’s company became the first one founded by a woman to be ranked on the Fortune 500 list.
A version of this story ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2022.