Getty Images // Caitlin Schneider
Getty Images // Caitlin Schneider

10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in April

Getty Images // Caitlin Schneider
Getty Images // Caitlin Schneider

Some of our favorite historical figures were born in April—including three dancers who ended up famous for something else. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a handful of lives we'll be celebrating.


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Washington Irving is best known for writing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, but his body of work is quite extensive—which only makes sense since he was named after a prolific and accomplished Founding Father. Irving got his moniker from George Washington and even attended Washington's inauguration as a child. He later got a degree in law, served as the U.S. minister to Spain in the 1840s, and deserves some props from Batman: Irving was the first person to refer to New York City as "Gotham." He also worked to strengthen copyright laws to protect the work of American writers.


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Maya Angelou was an author, poet, and Civil Rights activist, but her life included periods in which she was a singer, dancer, composer, educator, and even movie director. Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson, was seven years old when her mother's boyfriend raped her and was then killed by her uncles. The experience was so traumatizing that Angelou didn't speak for years. Later she trained as a dancer and actress and earned money performing with touring shows. Angelou wrote seven autobiographies, the first of which was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1969. The book was banned in many high schools because of its depiction of sexual violence, but became a hit and often even required reading on college campuses. It was the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.


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Born a slave in Virginia, Booker T. Washington grew up during Reconstruction and the beginning of the Jim Crow era. He worked his way through school after the Civil War and became a teacher. In 1888, General Samuel C. Armstrong, who was Washington's mentor, recruited him to found the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, now Tuskegee University. Washington built the school into a successful institution and became a national advocate for the education of black Americans. He was an "accommodationist," believing that equal rights for African-Americans could be put on the back burner while they made educational and economic progress. Washington's views drew criticism from equal rights advocates, but those views also allowed him access to national leaders, particularly Teddy Roosevelt. As a result, Washington was one of the most famous black advocates of the early 20th century.


Carl Van Vechten via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Legendary singer Billie Holiday had a rough start in life. She was born into poverty to a teenage mother, began working as a child, dropped out of school in fifth grade, spent time at a reformatory, and was arrested for prostitution at the age of 15. Soon after, she went to Harlem (Holiday was born in Philadelphia and spent much of her childhood in Baltimore) to break into the entertainment field as a dancer. She wasn't great—but her singing enchanted audiences. Producer John Hammond discovered her singing in a bar in 1933 and signed her to a record contract, and she went on to make hundreds of recordings in the 1930s. Her 1939 song "Strange Fruit" was a protest against lynching, and since her record company refused to release it, she turned to a smaller jazz label to record it. During the 1940s, Holiday added opium use to her drinking problem, and eventually turned to heroin. She continued performing, but during her final years her personal struggles began to cloud her public persona. Holiday died from complication of drug and alcohol addiction in 1959. She became more famous than ever after her death, as her records were re-released and her life was chronicled in the 1972 movie Lady Sings the Blues. In 1999, her recording of "Strange Fruit" was named the "song of the century" by Time magazine.


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Charlie Chaplin was born to parents who were both music hall performers in England, and young Chaplin made his stage debut at age five. He worked in vaudeville until moving to California in 1913, where he brought his physical comedy to the silver screen—making 35 movies in rapid succession with Mack Sennett of Keystone Studios in a matter of years. His output was almost as fast at other studios, and in 1919, he launched United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith. Chaplin's pacifist bent showed in his films, and drew the suspicion of J. Edgar Hoover, who considered him a communist sympathizer. Chaplin's offscreen activities got him in trouble, too. He lost a paternity suit in 1944, despite that fact that a blood test showed he was not the father of actress Joan Barry's child. The case led to a change in paternity laws, and afterward, blood tests became admissible in court. Hoover got his wish to rid America of Charlie Chaplin when the actor went to England for a film premiere in 1952, and was denied a re-entry visa. Chaplin settled in Switzerland with wife Oona O'Neill and children, and did not return to America until 1972 to receive an Honorary Academy Award.


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As an aspiring poet in the 19th century, young Charlotte Bronte was told that her writing showed talent, but she shouldn't pursue it because after all, she was a woman. Despite that, Charlotte—and her sisters Emily and Anne—all went on to became famous authors after publishing their stories and poetry under men's names. Charlotte, the oldest of the three, was listed as author Currer Bell on her first book of poetry, a collaboration with her sisters. It was also the name on the novel Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, published in 1847. Even her publishers didn't know Currer Bell was a woman until a year later, long after the book proved to be a bestseller. Charlotte Bronte wrote four novels before she died at age 38.

7. JOHN MUIR: APRIL 21, 1838

Francis M. Fritz via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After an industrial accident blinded him for six weeks, John Muir left his job behind and began a pilgrimage to explore the United States on foot. He set off in September of 1867 on a 1000-mile walk from Kentucky to Florida, studying plants along the way. Muir traveled light, and relied on the kindness of strangers for his sustenance. The diary of his two-month journey was published as A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. Muir continued his wandering, falling more and more in love with the natural world. He founded the Sierra Club in 1892, and lobbied to have the Yosemite area preserved as a national park. That was after he and President Teddy Roosevelt spent three days camping in the wilderness in 1903. Muir is credited with inspiring the president to form an entire system of national parks—earning him the nickname, the "Father of the National Parks."


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When Ella Fitzgerald was 17, she won the chance to compete at amateur night at the Apollo Theater. She had planned to dance, but after seeing the competition, she decided at the last minute to sing instead. Fitzgerald won first prize and set out on a career that spanned the rest of the 20th century. Fitzgerald toured and recorded with Chick Webb's band until he died in 1939, and it became her band. She added scat singing to her repertoire in the 1940s. Fitzgerald fan Marilyn Monroe used her influence to get the singer booked at the Mocambo Club in Hollywood in 1955, which cemented her superstar status. Fitzgerald sang in numerous movies, on television variety shows, and with elite musicians through the '80s. Along the way, she won 13 Grammys and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other awards. Fitzgerald continued to perform as her health declined, giving her last concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991, five years before she died of complications from diabetes in 1996.

9. HARPER LEE: APRIL 28, 1926

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For most of her life, Harper Lee was known to have written only one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, where her father was a prominent lawyer. As a kid, Lee had a close relationship with Truman Capote (who was two years older). He later introduced her to the literary world of New York City after she dropped out of law school. In 1956, her new friends Joy and Michael Brown were so impressed with her writing that they gave her enough money to support her for a year, giving her time to write a novel. Published 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird became a hit, earning Lee a Pulitzer Prize. It also became a movie that garnered eight Academy Award nominations (and three wins). Lee never finished another book, but over 50 years later it was discovered that she had written a novel before To Kill a Mockingbird. That book, Go Set a Watchman, had been rejected for publication in 1957. It featured an older Atticus Finch and Scout, and was published in 2015. Harper Lee died in 2016 at age 89.


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Jazz legend Duke Ellington earned many of the combined accolades of others in this list: 13 Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Medal of Freedom, and more. A piano prodigy, Ellington first started writing music in his teens. He took his band The Washingtonians to New York in 1923 where they played the hot nightspots in Harlem, including three years as the house band at the Cotton Club. The band also played for Broadway and on radio, which turned a nation on to jazz. Ellington took the show on the road, and eventually logged over 20,000 performances. He also wrote over 3000 songs. As if all that wasn't interesting enough, Ellington also experienced chromesthesia, a type of synesthesia that meant he saw colors and textures in musical notes. The Duke performed up until his death in 1974, after which his son Mercer and then his grandson Paul took over the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

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7 Things You Might Not Know About Audrey Hepburn
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Though she’ll always be known as the little-black-dress-wearing big-screen incarnation of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about Audrey Hepburn, who passed away in Switzerland on January 20, 1993.


Though 1948’s Dutch in Seven Lessons is classified as a “documentary” on IMDb, it’s really more of an educational travel film, in which Hepburn appears as an airline attendant. If you don’t speak Dutch, it might not make a whole lot of sense to you, but you can watch it above anyway.


Hepburn was an unknown actress when she was handed the starring role of Princess Ann opposite Gregory Peck in 1953’s Roman Holiday. As such, Peck was going to be the only star listed, with Hepburn relegated to a smaller font and an “introducing” credit. But Peck insisted, “You've got to change that because she'll be a big star and I'll look like a big jerk.” Hepburn ended up winning her first and only Oscar for the role (Peck wasn’t even nominated).


In 1954, the same year she won the Oscar for Roman Holiday, Hepburn accepted a Tony Award for her title role in Ondine on Broadway. Hepburn is one of only 12 EGOTs, meaning that she has won all of the four major creative awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Unfortunately, the honor came to Hepburn posthumously; her 1994 Grammy for the children’s album Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales and her 1993 Emmy for Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn were both awarded following her passing in early 1993.


Blake Edwards’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s may be one of the most iconic films in Hollywood history, but it’s a miracle that the film ever got made at all. Particularly if you listened to Truman Capote, who wrote the novella upon which it was based, and saw only one actress in the lead: Marilyn Monroe. When asked what he thought was wrong with the film, which downplayed the more tawdry aspects of the fact that Ms. Golightly makes her living as a call girl (Hepburn had told the producers, “I can’t play a hooker”), Capote replied, “Oh, God, just everything. It was the most miscast film I’ve ever seen. It made me want to throw up.”


Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'
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In 2006, Christie’s auctioned off the iconic Givenchy-designed little black dress that Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a whopping $923,187 (pre-auction numbers estimated that it would go for between $98,800 and $138,320). It was a record-setting amount at the time, until Marilyn Monroe’s white “subway dress” from The Seven Year Itch sold for $5.6 million in 2006.


One year after Marilyn Monroe’s sultry birthday serenade to John F. Kennedy in 1962, Hepburn paid a musical tribute to the President at a private party in 1963, on what would be his final birthday.


Photo of Audrey Hepburn
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In 1990, a rare white tulip hybrid was named after the actress and humanitarian, and dedicated to her at her family’s former estate in Holland.

How Common Is Your Birthday? An Interactive Map Can Tell You

by James Hunt

At some point in their life, everyone counts back from their birthday and tries to figure out what anniversary, special occasion, or other excuse might have happened to their parents nine months before they were born. To make this backtracking exercise easier—and give us the chance to do it for a much larger population—data journalist Matt Stiles created an interactive "heat map" showing the most common birthdays in the United States for individuals born between 1994 and 2014.

Click on the map and you'll quickly notice that July, August, and September are by far the most common birth months. It's no surprise that nine months prior you'll find the dark and rainy period of October, November, and December when—to put it delicately—people have to make their own entertainment.

According to Stiles, "People generally seem to have time for baby-making during their time off. Several of the most common birth dates, in September, correspond with average conception periods around Christmas. September 9 is most common in this dataset, though other days in that month are close. September 19 is second. Following a customary gestation period, many of these babies would, in theory, have been conceived on December 17 and December 27, respectively."

But that's not all we can tell from the chart. When you take into account the fact that some people get to choose their child's birthday because of induced and elective births, they tend to want to stay away from the hospital during understaffed holiday periods.

"The least common birthdays in this dataset were Christmas Eve, Christmas [Day], and New Year’s Day," Stiles concluded. "Dates around Thanksgiving aren’t as common. July 4 is also at the bottom of the list. Conversely, Valentine’s Day ranks relatively high, as you can see in the graphic, as are the days just before a new tax year begins."

Amazingly, though it only comes around every four years, Leap Year babies aren't as uncommon as you might think: February 29 ranked 347th out of 366 on the list.

You can play around with the interactive graphic, and see the full ranking of birthdays, here.


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