Valentine’s Day, normally seen as a happy and uplifting holiday, is anything but traditional at the University of Wisconsin.
The origin of Valentine’s Day may seem romantic and inspiring to some, but it all began with an act of defiance.
Valentine, a Roman priest, was marrying couples in secret around the year 270 despite the command of a Roman ruler, continuing to do so until he was condemned to death and beheaded on Feb. 14. Valentine later became a saint.
The date was initially seen as St. Valentine’s feast day, but progressively became associated with flowers, poems and romance.
Yet throughout history, Valentine’s Day has been linked to conflict. In 1779, for example, the Patriots defeated the Loyalists in an American Revolution battle in Georgia. In 1929, the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre – considered the peak of Capone’s gang war with Bugs Moran and also their last interaction – occurred in Chicago.
Then in 1942 on Valentine’s Day, napalm was invented in a secret Harvard lab. Later on, there were major protests during the Vietnam War against Dow Chemical Company, which would produce napalm for war use, according to UW graduate Bill Gates.
Valentine’s Day at UW
UW is no exception to the unrest that can culminate on Valentine’s Day.
During Valentine’s Day weekend in 1971, UW students held a rally protesting the Vietnam War. The Wisconsin Student Association, United Front and Madison Area Peace Action Council ran the protest in the Camp Randall Memorial Building, now known as the Shell, according to UW Archives and Oral History. There were more than 2,500 attendees who intended to march to the Capitol after the protest, but police stopped most of them before they reached their destination.
“WSA vice president Andy Himes said the purpose of the rally was to reach out to get all the segments of the Madison community involved in the movement,” The Badger Herald’s Ken Bingenheimer reported at the time.
The speakers included a Vietnam war veteran, an ex-steelworker, a priest and others.
Protesting the weekend of Valentine’s Day was not just by coincidence, UW graduate Caryl Bremer said.
“They were protesting anything that was traditional or sentimental,” Bremer said.
In 2011, UW’s Teaching Assistants Association led a protest on Valentine’s Day against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, according to the TAA Facebook page.
The protest was titled “Don’t Break My Heart,” and protesters brought heart-shaped balloons and signs showcasing a Valentine’s Day theme and sent Walker valentines to get their point across. Students and members of TAA both marched up State Street and to the Capitol, part of the protests that would continue at the Capitol over the bill.
Exactly one year later, the TAA was back at the Capitol, the Facebook page said. Continuing with the Valentine’s Day theme, the group led a solidarity rally, intending to relay the message to Walker and other Republicans that they still loved Wisconsin.
“[TAA is] calling for restoring funding for higher education in this state and collective bargaining rights for public sector workers,” the Facebook page said.
This Saturday, protesters will again walk up State Street to the Capitol, this time led by faculty and staff members protesting against the proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin System in Walker’s budget.
The protest — sponsored by United Faculty and Academic Staff and Wisconsin University Union — is called “Stop the Cuts-Save UW” and will start at noon at Library Mall, according to the Facebook event.
Traditional Valentine’s Day events
Among all the anger and unrest that seems to blossom on Valentine’s Day, more traditional events have still surfaced.
In 1941, a Valentine’s Day dance was held at Memorial Union. Hy Lowe and his band provided live entertainment, and the entrance fee was one dollar for each couple, according to university archives.
This year’s campus sponsored Valentine’s Day activities are lighthearted. Students can write and send candy grams to friends and loved ones this week, and residence halls are hosting events this weekend for students to make valentines and decorate cookies.
The UW running club is also joining in, hosting their annual 5k race the morning of Feb. 14th. The race will start and end at the UW-Natatorium, looping through Lakeshore path.