Who Is The Real Mother Goose and Why Does She Have Her Own Holiday?

Every May 1, Mother Goose Day honors classic nursery rhymes like, "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Humpty Dumpty," which were first published in 1697.

Due to the character's popularity, Mother Goose Day started in 1987. That same year, founder and author Gloria Delamar wrote Mother Goose; From Nursery to Literature, which traced the history of the character's evolution. Before being portrayed as a human-sized waterfowl with thick glasses and a bonnet, the legendary Mother Goose was illustrated as a sweet elderly woman who magically traveled on the back of a male goose, also known as a gander.

The beloved children's character was often depicted singing the famous nursery rhymes children. Enchanted by her singing voice, the children would swarm around her and quietly listen as "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall." Now when you think Humpty Dumpty, you probably think egg, right? Well interestingly enough, that word isn't mentioned once in the verse! There's some trivia for you.

Back in 1697, the fictional character made her first appearance in French author Charles Perrault's collection of rhymes and fairy tales titled Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oie or Tales of my Mother Goose. According to the Poetry Foundation, British readers discovered the female protagonist when English writer Robert Samber translated the text in 1786.

Mother Goose
EL CAJON, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 24: General view of the atmosphere at the 73rd Annual Mother Goose Parade on November 24, 2019 in El Cajon, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images) Daniel Knighton/Getty

Historians have disproved several legends that Mother Goose was based on an actual person though some people still believe she was one. In October 996, King Robert II of France, also known as the Wise, married his second wife. Nicknamed "Queen Goose-Foot" because of her misshaped feet, Bertha of Burgundy was believed to be a wonderful storyteller when she was around their children though she never had children of her own. There is no evidence that Bertha spawned the tales, however.

Because printer Isaiah Thomas published Samber's volume in 1786 for American audiences, legend circulated that Mary Goose from Boston, Massachusetts served as the inspiration for Mother Goose. Buried at the Granary Burying Ground cemetery since 1690, though disproven, tourists toss their coins to this day at Mary's tombstone for good luck.

To celebrate Mother Goose Day, join me and lay down some beats to these classic rhymes, "Down came the rain and washed the spider out."