Babylonian Chaos God and Sun God (Wikipedia).
New Year’s resolutions have been made by people around the world and throughout history. For instance, it’s said that the Babylonians at the beginning of each year promised their gods that they would return borrowed objects and money and apparently Romans made similar promises to their god Janus as each year began.
Modern day New Year’s resolutions are more likely made to one’s self rather than a deity. While about a quarter of American adults were making New Year’s resolutions at the end of the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s, that is), by 2000 that number had grown to about 40 percent. The studies don’t say how many kept those increased numbers of resolutions that are flying around on New Year’s Eve, but we could probably all make a pretty good guess!
Villiscans, like other Americans, have played around with making resolutions often enough that reports on some of them have made it into the columns of the Review over the years. There were also jokes about NOT keeping those resolutions, like this early one:
January 6, 1881—“It is nearly late enough in the new year to break New Year’s resolutions.”
Similarly, groups and organizations used the first of the new year as an opportunity to resolve to improve their ways:
January 2, 1896 The Chautauqua Circle gave an open session at the home of Mrs. Platter, Monday evening. A literary program, consisting of recitations, essays and new year’s resolutions was given and the material wants were supplied by a choice selection of good eatables.
January 5, 1899 Hereafter the rules and regulations of the Fire Company will be strictly adhered to in regard to all fines and expulsions. This is a good resolution, and it is to be hoped that it will outlive most New Years resolutions.
Strictly practical advice sometimes came in the form of a New Year’s resolution like this one found in a “canned” column in the Review:
February 17, 1910 Agricultural Column—There are many farmers who could have or carry out no more practical New Year’s resolution than the purchase and use of a good manure spreader. It will not only mean fewer blisters and callouses on the hands through freedom from forking the stuff off the wagon, but will likewise mean a great many dollars more in pocket as a result of a more economical handling of the farm fertilizers and from realizing a larger percent of their value in increased crop returns.
And then, of course, there were the purely social gatherings that revolved around New Year’s and its traditions:
January 5, 1911 IN SOCIAL CIRCLES
Miss New Year’s Eve was the guest of honor at a pleasant social affair given by Miss Ethelda Armstrong last Saturday night, December 31, 1910. Many games were played, after which a taffy-pull was indulged in. The usual watch for the new year was engaged in by all and when it came the guests departed, all satisfied that no new year’s resolution had as yet been broken.
Important issues were covered by the Review and early organizations weren’t above elaborate public relations ploys to draw attention to their issues any less than modern groups are. This one was based on New Year’s resolutions.
January 8, 1916 SUFFRAGE RESOLUTION
“Resolved,—That Iowa must be the twelfth state in the union to grant full suffrage to women. (New Year resolution of Iowa suffragists.) New Year resolutions of Iowa women will be filled with such words as “suffrage,” “victory,” “big majority” if pre-New Year rumors can be trusted. The first of January will usher in what promises to be the most auspicious period in the history of Iowa women—the period of their political enfranchisement. Suffrage New Year resolutions would tend to show that the women are awake to the work that lies before them.
“Resolved,—That I will work harder than ever for suffrage,” is the New Year resolution of the state president, Miss Flora Dunlap. This means that the president will leave no stone unturned to bring victory to Iowa.
“Resolved,—That I will work harder than ever for suffrage,” that I will work to put Iowa on the suffrage map, June 5, 1916, and stop future generations from the wasteful expenditure of vital energy to get what four million women of other states already use with credit to themselves and benefit to others,” is the New Year resolution of Mrs. Pleasant J. Mills, auditor of the state suffrage association.
Miss Elizabeth Perkins, state board member and well known suffrage speaker, has suggested the following resolution for all men of Iowa:
“Resolved,—That I will cast my ballot next June for Equal Suffrage. My wife says if I don’t vote for Equal Suffrage that I don’t believe in a democratic country. She says she will feel she can hold her head up higher before our boys and girls if, when she is talking to them about being good citizens, she has the right to do so because she herself is a citizen’ she says, well she says she wants me to vote for Equal Suffrage in Iowa next June, so I am going to do it.”
It was a good attempt, but Iowa’s women did not get the right to state-wide suffrage until 1919, and then they had to wait for full suffrage for a couple of more years.
Written by Linda Artlip Weinstein’s 2014 New Year Column in the Villisca Review.