TIME Culture

The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes

The origins of 'Jack and Jill' aren’t as clean-cut as you imagined

In the canon of great horror writing, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley tend to dominate the craft. But Mother Goose isn’t too far behind. Yes, that fictional grande dame of kiddie poems has got a bit of a dark streak, as evidenced by the unexpectedly sinister theories surrounding the origins of these 11 well-known nursery rhymes.

  • 1. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (1731)

    Though most scholars agree that “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is about the Great Custom, a tax on wool that was introduced in 1275, its use of the color black and the word “master” led some to wonder whether there was a racial message at its center. Its political correctness was called into question yet again in the latter part of the 20th century, with some schools banning it from being repeated in classrooms, and others simply switching out the word “black” for something deemed less offensive. In 2011, news.com.au reported on the proliferation of “Baa, Baa Rainbow Sheep” as an alternative.

  • 2. Goosey Goosey Gander (1784)

    It’s hard to imagine that any rhyme with the phrase “goosey goosey” in its title could be described as anything but feel good. But it’s actually a tale of religious persecution, during the days when Catholic priests would hide themselves in order to say their Latin-based prayers, a major no-no at the time—not even in the privacy of one’s own home. In the original version, the narrator comes upon an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.” Ouch!

  • 3. Jack and Jill (1765)

    Admit it, you fooled around with the lyrics to “Jack and Jill” a bit yourself when you were younger, turning what you thought was an innocent poem into something a little bit naughty. But its origins aren’t as clean-cut as you probably imagined. One of the most common theories surrounding the story’s origin is that it’s about France’s Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were both found guilty of treason and subsequently beheaded. The only problem is that those events occurred nearly 30 years after “Jack and Jill” was first written. The more likely possibility is that it’s an account of King Charles I’s attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures. When Parliament rejected his suggestion, he instead made sure that the volume was reduced on half- and quarter-pints, known as jacks and gills, respectively.

  • 4. London Bridge Is Falling Down (1744)

    In 2006, Fergie got saucy with some of this classic kid tune’s lyrics. But the original song wasn’t much better. Depending on whom you ask, “London Bridge is Falling Down” could be about a 1014 Viking attack, child sacrifice, or the normal deterioration of an old bridge. But the most popular theory seems to be that first one. More specifically: the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.) The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it, believing that they brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? That’s an idea that is also often debated (there’s no archaeological evidence to support it), but the theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders believed that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. Which we’re pretty sure isn’t a practice they teach you in architecture school.

  • 5. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (1744)

    “Contrary” is one way to describe a murderous psychopath. This popular English nursery rhyme, which reads like a solicitation for gardening advice, is actually a recounting of the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I of England, a.k.a. Bloody Mary. A fierce believer in Catholicism, her reign as queen—from 1553 to 1558—was marked by the execution of hundreds of Protestants. (Silver bells and cockle shells are torture devices, not garden accouterments.)

  • 6. Three Blind Mice (1805)

    “Three Blind Mice” is supposedly yet another ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, with the trio in question believed to be a group of Protestant bishops—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer—who (unsuccessfully) conspired to overthrow the queen and were burned at the stake for their heresy. Critics suggest that the blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs.

  • 7. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

    No, there’s nothing particularly inflammatory about the lines “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, Catch a tiger by his toe.” But there is when you consider that the word “tiger” is a relatively new development in this counting rhyme, as a replacement for the n-word. Even with the lyrical switch-out, any reference to the poem still has the ability to offend. In 2004, two passengers sued Southwest Airlines was for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, following an incident where a flight attendant used the rhyme in a humorous fashion during takeoff when she told passengers: “Eeny meeny miny mo, Please sit down it’s time to go.” (The court sided with the airline.)

  • 8. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1840)

    “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is often sung as part of a children’s game. According to historian R. S. Duncan, a former governor of England’s Wakefield Prison, the song originated with that 420-year-old institution’s female prisoners, who were exercised around a mulberry tree. Which is probably not the connotation your six-year-old self had in mind.

  • 9. Rock-a-Bye Baby (1765)

    One interpretation of this famous lullaby is that it is about the son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena. It is widely believed that the boy was not their son at all, but a child who was brought into the birthing room and passed off as their own in order to ensure a Roman Catholic heir to the throne.

  • 10. Ring Around the Rosie (1881)

    Considering that some of today’s classic nursery rhymes are more than two centuries old, there are often several theories surrounding their origins—and not a lot of sound proof about which argument is correct. But of all the alleged nursery rhyme backstories, “Ring Around the Rosie” is probably the most infamous. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.“The rosie” is the rash that covered the afflicted, the smell from which they attempted to cover up with “a pocket full of posies.” The plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population, which makes the final verse—“Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”—rather self-explanatory.

    But Snopes labels this reading false, and quotes folklorist Philip Hiscock with a more likely suggestion: That the nursery rhyme probably has its origins “in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the ‘play-party.’ Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.”

  • 11. Old Mother Hubbard (1805)

    To many, “Old Mother Hubbard” is not a mother at all—nor a woman. The poem is speculated to have been written as a mockery of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whose refusal to grant an annulment to King Henry VIII, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, led to his political downfall.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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My Family Was Collateral Damage in a War Against Immigrants

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A single illegal border crossing broke apart my famliy for good

On November 20, 2014, President Obama gave a historic speech on immigration. Despite how profoundly personal this issue is to me, I didn’t watch. For the past decade, I have deliberately avoided any mention of immigration reform—hearing or reading about it causes my chest to tighten and my stomach to churn.

The topic inevitably brings me back to a window in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2004. The five minutes I spent there damaged my life irrevocably. With the swipe of a pen, a blank-faced clerk denied my husband’s application for a marriage visa and shattered our family.

We had met four years earlier, working as food servers at a Mexican restaurant in a small town in Southern California. We became fast friends, then fell in love, spending hours talking after the restaurant closed and until the sun came up. He told me about how his mother had died when he was young, and his father descended into depression and debilitating alcoholism. He and his nine brothers and sisters had to fend for themselves. He arrived in the U.S. at 17, finished high school, and got three jobs to support his younger siblings in Mexico. And because he had entered the country illegally, he did all this without documents.

We got married in 2002, then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, so I could earn a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University. We had a beautiful, irrepressible baby boy. On the weekends, we’d go to the park and I would watch my husband do cartwheels and make faces for our giggling baby. At night, we would pile into the cheap black futon in our one-bedroom apartment. We were happy and grateful.

But we knew we couldn’t build a stable life for our son without regularizing my husband’s immigration status. So we applied for a marriage visa and, about one year later, were relieved to get the letter approving us for a visa and setting an appointment at the American Consulate in Ciudad Juarez on April 17, 2004. We had to leave the country for our appointment because anyone applying for a visa at that time had to have legal standing to receive an appointment inside the U.S. Since my husband did not have legal documents to be here in the United States, he was required to accept an appointment in Mexico. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) knew he had entered illegally, and an official representative informed me that because of his illegal presence, there would likely be a fine and a waiting period of a few months before he would be issued his visa.

So we flew to California, left our son with family, and hopped a bus to Ciudad Juarez. The morning of our appointment we found the waiting room of the American Consulate filled with couples like us. I had a thick packet of paperwork, including letters attesting to my husband’s good character from his high school teacher, city councilman, and the local police department. He had done his physical evaluation. We were as ready as we could be.

The clerk called us to the window. My husband raised his right hand and promised to tell the truth. She never looked at our documents. She only asked one question: Have you ever crossed illegally besides your initial entrance? Yes, he answered. He had returned to visit his ailing grandmother before she passed away. The clerk then shoved a piece of paper at us and informed us that my husband was barred from entering the United States for life. He was not coming home with me and never would. We were in utter shock. Can we appeal? No. In 10 years you can request a waiver, but it isn’t something many people get. It has to be special circumstances, like you have a child who is dying. She called the next couple.

When I returned to Cambridge without my family, my expectant friends were bewildered. This man was my husband, he had no criminal record, and we had an American child! Didn’t that mean he could legalize? The answer was no.

There had been no way I could care for a toddler alone while studying and working two jobs, so I left my son in Mexico, too. I came back to an empty crib and an empty bed. My husband did not come home late after his shift at a restaurant and crawl into bed, pulling me to his warm chest. My son did not cry out for chocolate when we walked past our corner bakery. I felt as though my limbs had been torn from my body. My family was gone.

I was forced to relive my trauma every time I told my story to anyone I thought could help me. I managed to find a top immigration lawyer who agreed to see me pro bono. He delivered the bad news. The permanent bar was because of the second illegal crossing. There was absolutely nothing he could do.

There is a legal principle called proportionality, which says the punishment should fit the crime. My husband had not broken any criminal laws. By visiting his grandmother, he had violated immigration regulations. For that, he was given a life sentence with no parole.

My family became collateral damage in a war against immigrants. My marriage seemed worthless in the eyes of the law—a law that left my innocent son with parents broken apart against their will. It was cruel. Draconian.

Our justice system is weighted heavily toward keeping families together. Children are sent back to abusive homes on a regular basis on the principle of the sanctity of family. But this was not the case with my family. In my son’s adoring eyes, his father is a superhero. Yet for over a decade now,my government has thrown up roadblock after roadblock to keep them apart.

I know that there are thousands of children like my son all over the country who have lost a loving parent as a result of our immigration laws. The damage—trauma, depression, anxiety—is permanent. Such losses poison their childhoods and affect them into adulthood.

Months later, I finally read President Obama’s speech on immigration. His executive order prevents people from being deported if they have American children. It’s designed to protect kids like my son until Congress passes something more permanent. But a federal judge in Texas has put the executive order on hold; an appeals court heard oral arguments on April 17 and will rule soon, but the case may eventually go to the Supreme Court. In the meantime I think of these children, and my son, as I pray for a ruling that will keep other families from suffering as we have.

Rebekah Rodriguez-Lynn studied politics at UCLA and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She lives in Southern California with her son and her chihuahua. She wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

30 of the Best Parents in Literature

Atticus Finch ranks at the top as one of the great heroes and parents of American literature

It’s hard to find good parents in fiction. A lot of books deal either with the lack of a parent or a parent’s complete unsuitability for the role. But there are a few good ones out there, parents who make you think, “Gee, I wish my parents were like that.” Behold: Parents (or parental types) we wish were ours—or that we wish we could be.

  • 1. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

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    HarperLuxe 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

    The widowed father of Jem and Scout, Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes of American literature. Steering his young children along the path of moral rectitude is hard in the Jim Crow South, and when Atticus, a lawyer, unsuccessfully defends an innocent black man from charges that he raped a white woman, it becomes even more difficult. But his own belief in rightness, morality, and good, even in the face of an unfair world, is communicated to his kids—and to the world. His impact on the legal profession, especially in the South, was also profound: The Atticus Finch Society, part of the Alabama Law Foundation, was founded to serve the legal needs of the poor and named after a fictional lawyer who “epitomizes the type of professional, and person, lawyers strive to be.”

  • 2. and 3. Alex and Kate Murry from A Wrinkle in Time

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    Time Quintet 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

    Tesseracts are real, and Meg and Charles Murry’s scientist father has disappeared into one—and it’s up to these two brilliant but socially awkward children to save him. When it was published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi gift to all those nerdy kids out there for whom Star Trek hadn’t yet been invented. And the Murry parents—beautiful and smart microbiologist Kate and tesseract physicist Alex—made being scientists seem so cool. Who wouldn’t want parents like that?

  • 4. and 5. The Weasleys from Harry Potter Series

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    Scholastic 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' by J.K. Rowling

    Harry Potter wanted them to adopt him—and we wouldn’t mind either. Though Harry was already remarkably well-adjusted for a child who’d been forced to sleep in a spider-filled cupboard under the stairs, his friendship with the Weasleys showed him what a loving family really looked like. Mom Molly was kind, fiercely protective of her children—her battle with Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book was immensely satisfying—and knitted a mean jumper. Dad Arthur was slightly bumbling, loved Muggle stuff, and was still a kid at heart. Best of all, they loved each other as much as they loved their children.

  • 6. Marmee from Little Women

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    Penguin Books Australia 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott

    Marmee is the glue that holds the Little Women together through the Civil War and their father’s long absence. Kind and charitable, she’s their moral compass, their comfort in troubled times. Without her, the four girls—Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth—are lost.

  • 7. and 8. Mr. and Mrs. Little from Stuart Little

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    Harper & Row 'Stuart Little' by E.B. White

    Interspecies procreation is typically cause for concern, but not for Mr. and Mrs. Little. When their son, Stuart, was born a mouse, the kind (though perhaps a bit dense) Littles treated him just like any other member of the family. A member of the family who had a long tail, whiskers, slept in a cigarette box and could climb up lamp cords.

  • 9. and 10. Ma and Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie

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    HarperCollins 'Little House on the Prairie' by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Though Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of growing up in the Indian Territory, now Kansas, in the mid- to late-19th century are actually autobiographical, the books tend to be found in the children’s fiction part of the bookstore, so they make the list. Pa was a true pioneer with a serious case of wanderlust: He could build a house by hand and skin a rabbit, but still remained a gentleman, kind, courteous and upstanding. Ma Ingalls, a true pioneer wife, instructed her children to treat others with care.

  • 11. and 12. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby from Ramona Series

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    HarperCollins 'The Complete Ramona Collection' by Beverly Cleary

    Ramona Quimby, age 8, is a bit of a handful. Her imagination—and she’s got lots of it—often gets her into situations, like the time she went to school with her pajamas under her clothes because she was pretending to be a fireman. Or the time she put her doll in the oven. Or the time she squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink.

    Her parents, Bob and Dorothy, meanwhile, are real parents, who have to deal with real things like quitting smoking, having children young, getting laid off, and 8-year-olds who accidentally dye themselves blue. And they even get in fights, like real parents do. But throughout it all, they manage to remain patient and affectionate with their children; they’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good.

  • 13. – 16. Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Black Panther, and the Wolves from The Jungle Book

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    Dover Publications 'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling

    After they save him from becoming tiger Shere Khan’s meal, Father Wolf and Mother Wolf raise the hairless man-cub Mowgli as one of their own. But it’s up to Baloo the sleepy bear and Bagheera the panther to teach the boy the Law of the Jungle—thereby becoming the coolest godparents in the world.

  • 17. and 18. The Gilbreths from Cheaper by the Dozen

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    Crowell Co 'Cheaper By the Dozen' by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

    So, the Gilbreths were actual people, not fiction, and this charming book, published in 1948, is a biography written by their children. But—and we mean this as a compliment—the parents are so lovely as to almost seem made up. Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian, are world-famous efficiency experts whose studies in time and motion changed the way people worked. If Frank had his way, they would have also changed the way people raised children, especially after their incredible fecundity produced 12 kids. Having an even dozen children meant that the Gilbreths could apply some of their expertise in their Montclair, New Jersey, home. Hilarity ensues, as does an overwhelming sense of warmth and happiness.

    The two children wrote a follow up book, Belles on Their Toes, recounting what happened after Frank’s death in 1924, which left Lillian with a house full of children, the youngest just 2 years old, and a business to run. Mother Lillian managed to keep it all together, with good humor and warmth, and the book manages to stay away from the maudlin.

  • 19. and 20. The Cuthberts from Anne of Green Gables

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    Random House Children's Books 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery

    In L.M. Montgomery’s series about the red-haired orphan Anne Shirley, the Cuthberts are a brother and sister who, living together alone on their Prince Edward Island farm with no prospective children, decide they need to take in an orphan to help out with the work. They’d wanted a boy; they got Anne—spirited, imaginative, dramatic Anne. The two grow to love and care for her deeply in different ways: Where Matthew quietly encourages Anne’s flights of fancy and frivolity, Marilla offers a steely structure and hidden warmth. Matthew’s death from a heart attack at the end of Anne of Green Gables, the first book in the series, is eye-wateringly tragic, but Anne’s devotion to stern Marilla is a testament to the strength of their relationship.

  • 21. and 22. Caractacus and Mimsie Pott from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car

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    Candlewick 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' by Ian Fleming

    To be clear: this is not the Disney film Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang featuring Dick Van Dyke (although having most any character Dick Van Dyke has ever played as a father would be pretty great, from Rob Petrie to Bert to Mark Sloan). In Ian Fleming’s 1964 children’s book, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang: The Magical Car, there are two Potts, mother Mimsie and father Caractacus, a Royal Navy Commander and crack-pot inventor who comes across the magnificent car with a rich inner life of its own. Potts is a fun dad, one who tells his children, “Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.” When their twin 8-year-old boy and girl are kidnapped by gangsters with a dastardly plan to rob a Parisian chocolate shop, the Potts and their loyal car set off to rescue them. International intrigue and gadgetized cars are pure vintage Fleming, but the love between an adventurous father and his children speaks to the Bond author’s softer side—he wrote the book for his own son, Caspar, but died before seeing it in print.

  • 23. Carson Drew from The Nancy Drew Mystery Series

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    Grosset & Dunlap 'The Secret of the Old Clock' by Carolyn Keene

    Nancy Drew, the great girl detective, wouldn’t have been quite so successful if it hadn’t been for both the encouragement and neglect of her father, important River Heights lawyer Carson Drew. The elder Drew’s attitude towards his daughter changed as the book series continued, possibly due in part to changing parental attitudes—leaving your 16-year-old daughter to her own devices while you’re away on business is the kind of thing that seemed like a good idea before Facebook and hashtag parties. But throughout, he remained a supporter of his sleuth daughter, encouraging her exploits, helping her figure out clues, and even relying on her when he needed help himself.

  • 24. and 25. Ben Moore and Cillian Boyd from The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking Series

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    Candlewick 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness

    Raising a child right is hard enough; raising him right when everything around you is so incredibly wrong is even more difficult. In Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in the masterful Chaos Walking trilogy, Todd Hewitt, nearly 13, is the last boy in Prentisstown, a damned settlement on a new world where the women and half the men were killed nearly a decade before. The remaining men are afflicted with “the Noise”—the constant cacophony of the thoughts of almost every living thing around. Ben Moore and Cillian Boyd are Todd’s adoptive parents, who took him in when his own were killed. But since then, while they’ve raised him, loved him, literally listened to every thought in his head, and instilled in him a sense of morality, they’ve been secretly plotting his escape … even though it almost surely means their own deaths.

  • 26. Sam Gribley’s Dad from My Side of the Mountain

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    Puffin Books 'My Side of the Mountain' by Jean Craighead George

    Talk about free-range parenting. When Sam Gribley gets tired of living in his large family’s overcrowded New York apartment, he does what any self-sufficient 12-year-old would do: Teaches himself wilderness survival from a book he found in the public library and sells magazine subscriptions until he can afford a bus ticket to the Catskills, where he plans to live off the land at his family’s abandoned farm. And his dad lets him. No, really. But what could have become a tale of terrible parental irresponsibility is, in fact, a story of one boy’s self-reliance and passion for nature and the parent who trusted him enough to let him dive off the grid. In the end, Dad Gribley, inspired by Sam, decides that living in the city is no place for a family and moves the entire brood up to the abandoned farm. Fresh air for all!

  • 27. Mame Dennis from Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade

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    Broadway Books 'Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade' by Patrick Dennis

    The flamboyant, eccentric, wonderful Auntie Mame of the 1955 book of the same title is absolutely the kind of accidental parent we’d love to have. In 1928, 10-year-old Patrick Dennis becomes the ward of his father’s unflappable flapper sister, Mame Dennis, after his parents’ deaths. Hers is a boozy, glamorous world populated by artists, poets, and bohemians that, to conventional types at least, would hardly seem suitable for a little boy. Yet Mame carves out a place for Patrick—involving a truly avant garde nude elementary school, among other things—and their tender relationship endures Mame’s scandalous society and wild whims, her rich husband who fell off the Matterhorn, and even Patrick’s atrocious fiancé.

    The book was a sort of quasi-fictional memoir and “Patrick Dennis” was the pseudonym of the enormously witty Edward Everett Tanner III, who based Mame on his own aunt, the self-described “ultimate Greenwich Village eccentric” Marion Tanner. Tanner’s own life was no less a study in eccentricity: He was an ambulance driver in World War II, wrote numerous best-selling books under pseudonyms, led, as his Random House biography says, “a double life as a bisexual man and a conventional husband and father,” and was a character of some renown in New York’s bohemian scene until financial ruin led him to spend the last years of his life as a butler in Palm Beach.

  • 28. Katie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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    Harper 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' by Betty Smith

    In Betty Smith’s 1943 coming of age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, protagonist Francie’s favorite parent, the parent who seems to get her, isn’t her mother, Katie; it’s her creative, sentimental father, Johnny. But after Johnny’s alcoholism consumes him, making it virtually impossible for him to hold a job, it’s Katie who keeps the family afloat. Katie’s grit and determination that her children should have a better life than she had is the kind of tough love that gives Francie the tools she’ll need to survive.

  • 29. Mrs. Frisby from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

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    Aladdin 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh' by Robert C. O'Brien

    Sometimes being a parent is about doing things that absolutely terrify you for the good of your children. Mrs. Frisby, heroine of Robert O’Brien’s 1971 children’s book about the wonder and horror of scientific experimentation, is kind, sweet, and, when it comes down to it, tough as nails. Though the titular “rats of NIMH” had the benefit of laboratory experimentation that made them super smart and super strong (although possessing a somewhat questionable moral compass), Mrs. Frisby is just a regular field mouse. Still, it’s her bravery – drugging a cat! – and selflessness that saves her family and the rats themselves. Hats off to you, Mrs. F.!

  • 30. The Man from The Road

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    Vintage Books 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy

    Like much of his work, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is grim. Really, really grim. But the post-apocalyptic travelogue is also a testament to the love between a father, the unnamed man, and his son. The Man is the kind of parent we’d like to have in the aftermath of some cataclysmic world event. We just desperately hope we wouldn’t ever need him.

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    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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TIME Culture

Why I Left My Religion (and Arranged Marriage) Behind

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I didn’t understand why God would give me a brain if I wasn't allowed to question things

Melissa Weisz is an emerging actress, with a current role in the movie Félix & Meira. The film, which tells the story of a young woman in a traditional Hasidic household who leaves her faith and the strict circle of her community when she falls in love, has strong parallels with Weisz’ own life. She told her story to Laura Barcella.

I never thought I’d be an actress, but not just for the reasons most people think they won’t make it. For most of my life, I lived in a traditional family in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, where careers — let alone careers in acting — were rarely discussed. I was fully observant and, when I was 19, I entered into an arranged marriage. Four years later, I left it all behind.

My childhood was loud but happy. I had six sisters and two brothers, so there were lots of kids running around, and lots of makeshift moms — my older sisters were constantly helping out. It felt very safe, because we were in our own super-structured little bubble where everybody was like us. Everyone has one, clear, ultra-traditional direction in life — it was like, “This is where you’re going and this is what you’re doing.” You knew how to dress, how to act at home and at school. You knew what was expected of you.

I’m still not sure why, but one day, I started doubting a lot of what I’d been raised to believe. All of sudden, I was challenging my teachers and crossing the boundaries of what Hasidic kids are supposed to talk about. Some of the stuff I was learning — like the idea of men throughout history having multiple wives, things like that — disturbed me. Why was it okay for men to do that and not women?

It bothered me how, at holidays like Shabbat, the guys would sit quietly and study while the women were expected to serve them. I started to wonder, Why am I serving my little brother? Obviously, I didn’t know anything about feminism then. But, I didn’t understand why God would give me a brain if I wasn’t allowed to question things, and I only got more and more dubious as I grew older.

When I was 19, I had an arranged Hasidic marriage. It was just what was done; my ex-husband and I met a few times, and then we got engaged. Fortunately, he’s a great guy; I actually started to feel like I was falling in love with him during the courtship process. I hadn’t been with anyone else. I didn’t question whether the marriage was right for me (ultimately, it wasn’t). I figured I would make it work no matter what, because I had to. But, when you start questioning things, all the dominoes start to fall.

We were married for four years when I decided to walk away from both my husband and our community. That summer, I’d gone away to Texas and spoken with various Hasidic friends and rabbis, checked out different temples. I was reading a lot about Judaism and realized, once and for all, that it felt false to me. I had been trying to make sense of it and find my own path within it, but I just couldn’t. Religion, in general, just doesn’t really have a place in my life or my belief system.

So, I made the very difficult decision to leave.

After I left, I felt a big sense of relief, but I also realized I needed to figure out how to survive outside the world in which I’d been raised. Practical matters, like finding an apartment, were totally new to me. I was lucky to discover Footsteps, an organization that helps former Orthodox Jews establish new lives outside their communities. I started going to some of its meetings and met a bunch of great people. I found a support system, an apartment, roommates. That was when I finally felt comfortable starting to openly talk about my experiences in the Orthodox world. I put myself through college and got a degree in psychology.

When I left, I didn’t ask my family for their support — I just assumed they wouldn’t give it. I didn’t give them a chance, and after I left there was no real communication for a while. Once, my sister stopped by and left me a care package with a delicious traditional Jewish cake, but she didn’t say “hi.”

Sometimes, still, I feel like a bit of an outsider, and occasionally I miss aspects of my old life. But, we all have moments like that — like when you return to the town where you went to school, or drive past a house you used to live in. It’s nostalgic, but that doesn’t mean you want to be there again. When I pass by Hasidic boys on the street, it gives me a little pang sometimes.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to reconnect with my family. After they realized my leaving wasn’t just a phase, they began to reach out to me again, which was great. My father and I are even thinking about writing a book about the experience.

In my newest movie, I actually play a Hasidic woman. It’s been cathartic because it has forced me to face my past. The house where we shot the film was so similar to the one I grew up in, I walked in and immediately started crying. It felt like home — but it definitely wasn’t my home anymore.

Félix and Meira is now in theaters in select cities around the country.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

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TIME Family

Why the American Family Needs Same-Sex Parents

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Data shows that the country's most vulnerable kids will benefit if the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an omnibus case about whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry in all 50 states in this country. The probability of the court ruling in favor of legalization likely played a role in the Indiana and Arkansas controversies over the passage of their Religious Freedom Restoration Acts at the beginning of April.

Proponents and opponents of marriage for same-sex couples agree that heated debates about religious liberty are one effect of the marriage debate. But they strongly disagree about what America and its families will look like if same-sex couples can marry throughout the nation. Opponents have made dire predictions of marital instability, falling birthrates, and increases in children being born outside of marriage – in short, the destruction of American families.

But an examination of the data – particularly as it relates to the children in this country most in need of loving and stable families – does not support those predictions.

In a recent friend-of the court brief that I submitted to the Supreme Court, I explore what demographic and social science research tells us about the impact of the upcoming ruling. Today, nearly 1.4 million men and women are part of the estimated 700,000 same-sex couples living in this country. About 350,000 of them are married couples and 122,000 are raising more than 200,000 children under the age of 18.

Michigan couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse, plaintiffs in one of the cases currently before the Supreme Court, offer an example of how same-sex couples already play an outsized role in caring for some of the nation’s most vulnerable kids. They have adopted four children, two with developmental disabilities who require special care. U.S. Census Bureau data show that April and Jayne are not alone.

Same-sex couples are three times more likely than their different-sex counterparts to be raising adopted or foster children. Among married couples, same-sex couples are five times more likely. In states where same-sex couples can legally marry, more than 3 percent of adopted or foster children have same-sex parents. Since only about 0.3 percent of all children in those states have same-sex parents, it means that adopted and foster children there are nearly 10 times more likely than children in general to have same-sex parents.

As marriage becomes more widely available for same-sex couples, they will likely expand their already disproportionate role as parents to some of the nation’s neediest children. In 2013, 19 percent of same-sex couples without children were married compared to 33 percent of those with children. If they had adopted or foster children, the figure was 41 percent. In states where same-sex couples can marry, 60 percent of those with adopted or foster children are married. Clearly same-sex couples raising kids, especially adopted and foster kids, have a strong preference for marriage.

Opponents of marriage for same-sex couples argue that children do best when they are raised by their married biological parents. They reason that reserving marriage only for different-sex couples promotes that ideal. Assuming that kids do best with married moms and dads is a false read of social science research. A more careful review of the literature shows that children tend to do better when they are raised by two parents who are in a stable and committed relationship. Marriage offers a way for many couples to strengthen and support their desire for stability, love, and commitment. Kids with married parents, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender of those parents, benefit from the security that marriage offers to many couples.

What about the argument that reserving marriage for different-sex couples encourages them to raise children within marriage? This argument implies that allowing same-sex couples to marry might decrease the likelihood that different-sex couples decide to marry and have kids. Even if every same-sex couple in the country got married tomorrow, they’d only represent about 1 percent of all married couples. The notion that their marriages could alter the behavior of the other 99 percent of married couples (and unmarried heterosexuals for that matter), especially regarding such important and personal decisions like whether or not to marry or have children, seems ludicrous on the face of it. It turns out that the research agrees.

Two studies published last year in Demography, the premier academic journal in the field, find no evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry has altered the marriage rates of different-sex couples in the U.S. or in the Netherlands, the country that has allowed same-sex couples to marry longer than any other in the world. In 2013, the portion of children being raised by married different-sex parents in the U.S. was actually a little bit higher in states where same-sex couples could legally marry (65 percent) compared to states where marriage was restricted to different-sex couples (64 percent).

The recent events in Indiana and Arkansas prove that a Supreme Court decision bringing marriage for same-sex couples to all parts of the nation won’t end political conflict associated with LGBT rights. But it will improve America’s families. The nation will have more married couples, more kids with married parents, and more stable homes and families for the country’s most vulnerable children. It’s hard to understand how that could ever be a bad thing.

Gary J. Gates is the Research Director and Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. He served as an expert witness in the DeBoer v. Snyder trial, one of the cases currently before the Supreme Court. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

How To Help Your Kids Get Rid of Stuff

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Hint: Don't start in your child's closet.

How do you recognize a house that has kids in it? By all the stuff.

We start collecting stuff for kids before they’re even born. Not long after that that they start collecting stuff themselves. (And leaving it just about everywhere.) But all that stuff doesn’t just get in the way when we’re trying to walk across the living room. It can get in the way of our lives.

That’s what Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist and author of Clutter Free with Kids, realized one day, as he spent an afternoon cleaning stuff out of his garage instead of playing with his son.

So he and his family decided to simplify their lives, selling or giving away everything that wasn’t essential. The biggest benefit, according to Becker? Getting all that stuff out of the way gave his family a chance to focus on what really matters most to them.

“We began questioning everything we had allowed into our life,” Becker says. “Is this really benefiting us? Or is it just there because everyone else is doing it?”

He’s not the only one. Marie Kondo, whose bestselling 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up advises people to keep only those things that bring joy, used to sneakily throw away her siblings’ stuff when she was a kid.

But confronted with the tidal waves of stuff in kids’ lives, much of which they claim they desperately need, where can a parent begin?

“Don’t start in your kids’ closet,” Becker says. “Start in your own. Your child sees the example you’ve set, and you’ve explained why you’re doing what you’re doing. So by the time they get to their stuff, they’re prepared.”

With elementary age kids, Becker says, parents can start very simply: by saying, “no.” Parents often want to give their kids everything. But one of the most important things they can give kids, according to Becker, is boundaries. And once those boundaries are set, good conversations can start, with questions like, “What things are important to keep? Why do you want to keep them? What things do we not really need?”

By middle school, kids have started to notice what other kids have. So “envy becomes more prevalent,” Becker says. But, he notes, “we almost never solve the problem of envy by acquiring whatever it is we envy.” Instead, Becker says, the antidote for envy is gratitude. Parents can help kids confront envy with questions like, “How do you think having that new thing would change your life? What things do you have now that you enjoy?”

High school kids are in a place where they can be more self-reflective about the stuff they own, or want. Parents can encourage them with questions like “What makes us want to buy more and more? Why aren’t we satisfied with what we have?”

And, Becker says, parents can encourage kids to dream big not about what they want to have, but what they want to do. Kids “have very big dreams,” says Becker. And that’s one place where it is healthy to try to give them everything: “we should encourage them to do whatever they want to do to help people, and change the world they’re in.”

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TIME Food & Drink

How to Get Your Kitchen Ready for Cooking

Just remember the phrase 'mise en place'

The intent of Mad Delicious, my new cookbook from Cooking Light, is to make you a more purposeful cook, certainly to teach the “how,” but most importantly to spotlight the critical “whys” of methods, ingredients, ingredient combinations, traditions, phenomena, et al. I want you to understand the recipe you’re cooking, not just survive the process.

Before you begin to cook, I want to share the most important culinary principle there is—mise en place (a French phrase for “putting in place”)—to help you become a more organized, effective and confident cook. It’s a simple, foundational law of the kitchen and professional cooks learn this concept before they’re allowed to crack open their knife kits. Proper mise en place is a smart rule to follow in the home kitchen too and refers more to an absolute level of readiness that allows a cook to stay in relative physical and mental “flow” when cooking.

A good home cook is part ballet dancer, part chemist, part juggler, part anthropologist, part laborer and part project manager. The best inherently understands the following five principles and embraces them in their kitchens and their souls.

  1. Planning is the most important step
  2. Cook to suit your mood, not your cravings
  3. Focus on flow
  4. Multitasking is a myth
  5. Cooking is not a chore—love playing with food

For more cooking tips and kitchen science secret, check out MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!

This article originally appeared on Cooking Light.

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TIME Family

Ohio Woman Discovers Work Colleague Is Her Birth Mom

They had been living six blocks away from each other

It was the last thing La-Sonya Mitchell-Clark expected when she decided to track down her birth mother – she discovered they weren’t strangers, but shockingly, work colleagues.

The 38-year-old from Youngtown, Ohio, learned her mother was Francine Simmons after the Ohio Department of Health released birth records last month for those born between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 18, 1996, according to WYTV.

After she looked her name up on Facebook and saw that they both worked at the same company, Infocision, she knew who she was right away.

“There’s a Francine that works at my job. She works in VR and she works at the front desk,” Mitchell-Clark told the news outlet.

Throughout the years, Simmons wanted to know who her daughter was, but after becoming pregnant when she was 14, she put her in a girls’ home.

“I’m still in shock. It’s amazing,” Simmons told the news outlet.

They connected over a phone call, and the rest is history.

“She called me and I said, ‘Is this Ms. Francine?’ She said, yes. I said, ‘I think I’m your daughter’,” Mitchell-Clark said.

Mitchell-Clark also discovered that she and her mother live six blocks away from each other and that she has three sisters. “Now, we’ve got a bigger extended family where we can just be together,” Francis Simmons told WYTV about reconnecting with her daughter.

The icing on the cake?

One of those sisters works at the same company as well.

“It’s just amazing that all this time we’re thinking about her and trying to find her and she was trying to find us, too,” said one of her sisters, Maisha Cummings.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Family

America’s First All-Girl Quintuplets Born in Texas Hospital

Courtesy of Adam Busby

All five are healthy and require only "modest" breathing support

America is welcoming its first known set of all-girl quintuplets.

The quints—Olivia, Ava, Hazel, Parker and Riley—were delivered via C-section last week at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas, the hospital’s CEO announced in a statement Tuesday. The girls, who Dr. Jayne Finkowski-Rivera, a medical director who assisted during their delivery, said are receiving “only modest support of their breathing,” are the world’s first set of all-female quints since 1969, the hospital said.

The parents, Danielle and Adam Busby, have been documenting the experience on their blog, where they’ve posted photos and videos over the last several months. The quintuplets—and their big sister, Blayke—were born by intrauterine insemination (IUI) pregnancies, Danielle Busby wrote online.

The National Center for Health Statistics’ latest data indicate that quintuplets are extremely rare, with 66 reported sets of five or more babies in 2013.

TIME A Year In Space

Daughter Wrote Astronaut Dad a Sweet Note He Can Read From Space

All with the help of 11 Hyundais

Many parents travel for work, but a Texas 13-year-old named Stephanie has a father with a particularly challenging commute—he works in the International Space Station.

And so, to let her Dad—who ABC reports is probably Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts—know how much she misses him, Stephanie decided to write him a very, very large note that he could read from space.

“It might make him miss us even more, or miss Earth,” Stephanie said in Hyundai’s latest ad.

Since it would be nearly impossible for Stephanie to scrawl a note that’s big enough for her Dad to read, the car company deployed a fleet of 11 Hyundai Genesises to write a 5.5 square km note in Nevada’s Delamar Dry Lake. That’s one and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Stephanie’s astronaut father got the message, according to Hyundai.

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