Sunday, June 8, 2014


I'm very right handed and it gets me in trouble when I attempt to gain my position to the right of everyone, except in politics.  

John MeEnroe and Jay Leno are left-handed.
Left-handed people were once called gauche, the dictionary meaning of which is "lacking ease or grace; unsophisticated and socially awkward."  

Clarence Darrow and Alexander the Great were left-handed.
Do the British walk on the left side of aisles in super markets or theaters?  They drive their cars on the left side of the road.

Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were or are all left-handed.   
Do you  do the 'cut and switch' when eating meat   
Do you eat the meat from your left hand after you cut it - European style?

Gayle Sayers and Larry Bird  were left-handed.
I found varied statistics on the percentage of the population that is left-handed, but 
the one that was most consistent was approximately 10%.

Prince Charles of England and Prince William of England are left-handed.  
August 13 is International Left Handers Day

Caroline Kennedy and Oprah Winfrey  are left-handed.
Ambidextrous people can use both hands with equal skill.   Famous examples are Lord Baden Powell, Martina Navratilova, Leonardo da Vinci.  According to one source, "right-handed people show strong left brain dominance, but the hemispheres of ambidextrous and left-handed people's brains are almost symmetrical."  I think I would want to read more on that assertion.  It comes from Mental_Floss, a magazine and online site "where knowledge junkies get their fix." 

My sister Alice (1927-1995)  was left handed.
She went to school at a time when left-handed students were forced to adapt to the Palmer Method, which meant the paper was placed on the desk slanted and favoring the right hand, and teachers and parents forced a left-handed child to use his or her right hand for writing.  

Once Alice  mastered writing left-handed with the paper on her desk in proper Palmer Method position, it was no longer a visible handicap to her.  She curled her arm and hand around that pencil and wrote upside down all of her life.  I can't even make my left hand get into that position. Her tortured hand position was a perfect reason for imperfect penmanship, but her writing was  exquisite.  It did not have the Palmer Method slant, but each letter was perfectly formed and spaced.

Alice was an accomplished seamstress.  When she was about twenty, the Singer Company sent her to Chicago for three weeks of training to be an instructor.  She taught sewing for years, made beautiful custom drapes (all pleats done by hand) and in later years taught tailoring classes.  On one of my, sadly infrequent, visits to Denver, we were talking about her class, and she showed me at least three one-sleeved suit jackets in her closet.  "I'm going to finish them one of these days," she laughed.  It seems it only takes making one sleeve to teach a class how to do it.  Actually, I took a tailoring class once, miles away from her, and made a sport jacket for Wayne - with one sleeve.  I never finished it.  She probably made each sleeve for the left arm and I probably made mine for the right arm.  No clean data on this!  I know Alice had to have left-handed scissors for her work.   They were and are not that difficult to find, but other utensils were

Alice taught me how to knit - left-handed - and how to sew, beginning with inserting a zipper on a skirt when I was a teenager.  She made me rip it out three times. It was dark green wool and I think she was teaching me that I didn't select my material well, either.  I also think that ripping-out thing was a little sisterly love, but I did eventually learn how to sew.  However, I have seen clothing she made over the years, for herself, for her girls and mine.  If she made it, you could turn a garment inside out and wear it.  If I made it, only the outside was fit to be seen in public.  I don't know if her skill had anything to do with her being left handed, but it doesn't matter.  Anything she made was first class workmanship.  I suspect she was a good teacher, too, simply because she would want to be kind to her students, and she would want them to learn.  

Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler were left-handed.
The bride walks down the aisle holding her father's right arm, his sword arm, to prevent him from attacking the groom.   When the bride is passed over, she stands to the left of the groom (freeing his right arm to defend himself.)

Michelangelo and Mozart were left-handed.
I've always thought sewing machines were made for left-handed people, and  many others have thought so, too.  Elias Howe and Isaac Singer, the inventors of the modern sewing machine, were both left-handed.  Rex Pulker, another left-handed man, invented a right-handed sewing machine.  

I looked on the internet for a left-handed sewing machine and all I found were sewing machines.  I enhanced my search skills and found this article in a blog called          
           Fashion-Incubator  Lessons 
             from a Sustainable Factory Floor

a trade blog with all kinds of information for workers, supervisors, management in the clothing industry.  As with most industries, the inside scoop was fascinating (FYI - That's part of the reason I do this blog - I keep learning new stuff.)  I found this particular post in  the site's archives HERE.
          Are sewing machines designed for the left handed?
              Posted by K. F. on May 6, 2013

Evidently Ms F. [I chose not to use names.] is a supervisor and she periodically informs her workers in this fashion. The next blog was about patterns, and another was about the best way to put a casing around elastic at the waist.   I wish I had seen this years ago.

Being a blog instead of the usual website, the workers from the 'factory floor' were able to comment and make suggestions or thank their supervisor for the information.   I read about twenty of the comments, which varied and could have been condensed to 'I didn't know that' or 'I've been doing that for a long time.'  The comments were not just short statements though, but well-contained thoughts, and there were many more comments than the few I read.  

For the article on left-handed sewing machines the comments were thoughtful, lengthy, detailed opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of using a left-handed machine, and the consensus seemed to be that both hands are needed for using the various parts of the machine and the materials to be sewn; therefore, practice with both hands was necessary.  Most felt that sitting directly in front of the needle was also of significant importance.

If you're interested to read more go HERE, or copy and paste the following:\  --  and if you like to sew, investigate the archives.  I only looked at a few articles, but it was fascinating reading and I got some sewing tips.

Charlie Chaplin and George Burns  were left-handed.
Left and Right Politics
In politics, the words mean much more than direction or handedness.

The left/right association with politics came after the French revolution. The legislative assembly when seated in front of  King Louis XVIwas arranged according to political affiliation.  The conservative Feuiants, who backed the king, sat to the right.  To his left sat the liberal Girondists and the radical Jacobins who wanted a demcratic government.   In the US, the seating is reversed but the politics is not. In Congress, the Republicans, who identify in the US as conservatives, sit on the left side and the Democrats, who identify in the US as progressives, sit on the right.

Helen Keller and Albert Schweitzer were left-handed.
I searched for items that were difficult for left-handed users and found the sites not particularly relevant, but I did find or think of many items that through the years have been problematic for left-handed people:  can openers, scissors, cork screws, a pencil sharpener with a handle for turning, serrated knives, typewriters, wooden cooking spoons, irons, jar lids, classroom desks, notebooks and pens.  Hand writing in general is geared to the right hand because left handed people routinely have their hand over what they have just written, meaning either lead from a pencil or ink from a pen tends to smear, while right handed people have their hands ahead of the writing.  Clockwise dials on clocks, car dashboards, ovens have a  right hand orientation.  Doors are set so a right-handed person can use a key easily, but a left-handed person is in an awkward position to use the key.  It's interesting to think why driver side car doors are left-hand friendly.  In a fast moving car, one wouldn't want a door to open.  Of course that means the passenger car doors are right-hand friendly!

Judy Garland and John F. Kennedy, Jr. were left-handed.
To read more aboout famous left-handed people go  HERE   or copy and paste the following link  Some of the names  came from this research by  M.K. Holder, Ph.D, at Indiana University and some were found by doing a search on 'famous people who are left handed' or ' . . . ambidextrous.'  Why we use left or right or both hands with dexterity is a subject that has no limits when it comes to research and speculation.


  1. Loved what you wrote about mom. Yes, I cried reading it. I can still see her hand curved above the paper and see her writing. You were right, it was just beautiful!!! I remember her telling me about a teacher that used to take a ruler to her hand when she wrote with her left hand until her mom went up to school and 'set the teacher straight'. I love that about grandma and I didn't even know her!!
    And sewing!!! When she taught classes at Sew Knit-n- Stretch, I would always hear her handing out a seam ripper to her students. We joked that they should rename the store to Sew Knit and Rip!!! But, seriously, she was a good teacher. I should know, she taught me!!! Thanks mom!!

    1. I'm so glad you liked it. I shed a few, too. I knew I would write about her sometime, but I didn't know how or when. I could see her, too. She had a way of cocking her head to the side when she wrote, as if she were trying to see it from a different angle. It never ceased to amaze me that she, with all that left hand garbage to deal with had this beautiful handwriting and Louise and I both had such chicken scratches with all that right-handed 'magic.'

      I didn't know Mom went to school and gave the teacher a few words, but I'm not surprised. She had to go to school for me when some boy wrote me a note in the second grade and the teacher gave me a D in Conduct. She was a mama tiger, and probably the PTA president - both times
      Dad would have been so proud of the work Alice did. He was so good with his hands, too. He put together all those fancy, tufted Victorian antique parlor chairs for the rich ladies in Galesburg. And we, the three girls in turn, learned how to make cushion units and cane chairs. He always paid us, though: so much a spring or so much a hole for the caning.

      Aren't you on your way yet?

  2. What an insightful post! My brother, who started school in the mid-1920s, was naturally left-handed but forced to use his right. I think that slapping the offending hand, probably with a ruler, was the preferred deterrent at the time. He learned to write as required, though he performed every other task as a lefty would. I, more than a generation younger, was allowed to pursue my natural leftish choice. My only difficulties had been smearing my writing, as you aptly describe, and - until years later when manufacturers of irons caught on and centered electrical cords at the rear of their appliances - pressing my clothes. On the "other hand," my two elder sisters were righties. So our contribution to statistics is 50/50. Vive la difference! Thank you, Chris, for such thought-provoking posts.

    1. I don't think I had ever considered what my sister went through. I do know that my mom would have straightened out anyone who tried to force Alice, so punishment was probably short-lived, but other things she had to face, I can't even fathom. It was just a short sentence to me when I was growing up. "My sister is left-handed." In fact I thought it was another wonderful thing my sister had been given -- good looks, great hair, great legs, talented, boyfriends, could sew, and left-handed, too!.

      Little sisters have strange thoughts, I guess. I didn't know you are left-handed.

  3. Once again, you've hit me with a topic that is relevant to my life. I'm a lefty, in a family of mainly righties. My first grade teacher held my left hand behind my back, but finally gave up and allowed me to use it; but I, too, write with my wrist curved above my writing and my hand smeared as it moves over what has been written on the paper. However, the only skills that I developed with my left hand were eating & writing. All other tasks which require a bit of 'muscle', like batting, golfing, gardening, etc., I' m right-handed. And, interestingly enough, sewing & knitting I do right handed. I've gone through my life, choosing chairs at the dining table where my left elbow does not interfere with some rightie who simply cannot understand how I can possibly function using my left hand. School desks were impossible! And penmanship was the one class where I could never get an 'A'. I tried to train myself to write with my right hand, but it would never hold on to a pencil.
    And--Chris, since you asked, Bob & I are both doing well. Bob has some health issues, but comes out smelling like a rose every time he has a problem. Currently dealing with stenosis--treating it with meds so far. I thank God for good genes from long-lived ancestors!

    1. Ok, so you're not anonymous to me anymore! Tell Bob to milk those meds. Amy our daughter had surgery on C3, 4, and 5 because of stenosis about five years ago. She played tennis, and had pain going down her arm, so she said she just had to throw the ball from a little farther down. Her racquet arm wasn't affected.
      I really got an education on left-handedness. If you read one of my other comments, you'll see how I thought of it as a kid. Just one more thing that made my sister special!!.
      What's next? Give me a topic. I need a short one! You probably think I'm crazy for doing this. It's sometimes like homework, but I really love the research on diffferent stuff, and it keeps me busy.

  4. The perfect gift for a left-hander is the book by James T. deKay: The Left-Hander's Handbook. Its 400+ pages are packed with humorous facts about numerous celebrities, with a section about left-handed kids plus the one I especially delight in called The natural superiority of the left-hander! What fun!

    Warm regards, Chris

    1. You almost make me wish I were a south paw. That's a term I forgot to use. Wayne told me not to forget the name of Pete Gray who was a one-armed, left-handed major league outfielder for the St. Louis Browns during WWII. He said pitcher but I looked it up. I'll bet he's in that Left-Hander's Handbook.


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