August 13 is International Left-Handers Day, a day to celebrate the people we know who are left-handed.
Today, being left-handed is seen as a unique attribute. However in the past, being left-handed was seen as having a link to the Devil and some people used to be forced to become right-handed.
Here’s a look at the history of the holiday and left-handedness.
1. The Holiday Was Created by the U.K. Left-Handers Club
International Left-Handers Day was created by the Left-Handers Club in the U.K. According to the club, the goal of the holiday is to celebrate “those lucky enough to have been born left-handed and also our way of raising awareness among the right-handed majority of the different talents and needs of left-handers, particularly children.”
The Left-Handers Club isn’t the only group that celebrates being left-handed. There is also Left-handers International, which was founded by James S. Borthwick.
Although the Left-Handers Club takes credit for the revival of the holiday, Holiday Insights notes that it was celebrated by Left Handers International back on August 13, 1976.
2. 10 Percent of the World’s Population is Left-Handed
It’s estimated that around 10 percent of the world’s population is left-handed, notes Everyday Health.
Researchers believe that the cause of left-handedness is biological and genetic, Scientific American reports.
“The genetic proposal to explain hand preference states that there are two alleles, or two manifestations of a gene at the same genetic location, that are associated with handedness,” Clare Porac, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in Scientific American.
Porac continued, “One of these alleles is a D gene (for dextral, meaning right) and the other allele is a C gene (for chance). The D gene is more frequent in the population and is more likely to occur as part of the genetic heritage of an individual. It is the D gene that promotes right-hand preference in the majority of humans. The C gene is less likely to occur within the gene pool, but when it is present, the hand preference of the individual with the C gene is determined randomly. Individuals with the C gene will have a 50 percent chance of being right-handed and a 50 percent chance of being left-handed.”
3. Eight Presidents Were Left-Handed, Including Obama & Clinton
Eight presidents were left handers, and only one of them was elected before the 1928. ThoughCo notes that James A. Garfield, who was president from March 1881 until his assassination in September 1881, was the first left-handed president. There are also contemporary reports that suggested he was ambidextrous and could write with his left and right hands.
However, there wasn’t another left-handed president until Herbert Hoover was elected in November 1928. The other left-handed presidents were Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Oddly enough, the 2008 presidential election was a race between lefthanders. As Anything Left Handed notes, Arizona Senator John McCain is also left handed.
Also noteworthy: Clinton ran against lefties in his two successful elections. When he was re-elected in 1996, his opponent was left-handed Bob Dole.
4. Eight of the 10 Batters With the Best Batting Averages in Baseball Are Lefties
In the history of baseball, lefties have had notable advantages both as hitters and pitchers. As Baseball Reference shows, eight of the 10 hitters with the best ever batting averages are left-handed hitters. Ty Cobb, who holds the all-time record with a .3664 average, was a left hander. Ted Williams, the last player to have a .400 batting average in a season, was a lefty.
Hardball Times noted in 2007 that the most easily identifiable advantage lefites have is starting from a shorter distance from first base, but evidence shows that it’s not really that big an advantage. It also helps that they face fewer opposite-handed pitchers, since there aren’t as many southpaws as right-handed pitchers.
Washington University aerospace engineer David Peters also explained to Newsweek in 2008 another reason for the lefties’ advantage:
The biggest has to do with the angle of the ball. Three quarters of pitchers are right-handed. A right-handed batter has to look over his left shoulder and the ball is coming at quite an angle. The offset of your eyes gives you depth perception. So when you’re looking over your shoulder, you have lost the distance between your two eyes quite a bit, so you have lost that 10th of a second to see the ball. That’s why batters switch hit.
The left-handed specialist is also an important tool for managers. They are left-handed pitchers needed just to pitch against left-handed batters and often don’t face more than one batter per inning.
5. Forcing a Left-Handed Child to Write With Their Right Hand Has Been Linked to Learning Disabilities
Due to myths and superstitions about being left-handed, in some cultures, children have been forced to learn how to use their right hands instead of their left. However, Anything Left Handed notes that people have developed health problems after being forced to switch as a child.
Some reported issues with spelling, poor concentration, stuttering, being shy and withdrawn and poor memory.
A 2010 study in England found that forced right-handedness does cause changes to the brain, as left-handers must work harder to change their habits. The study looked at the brain activity of 34 converted left-handers.
Earlier this month, The Huffington Post spoke with Paul Silvia, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who suggested that neuoriscience studies are flawed because they often use only right-handed people. He told the Post that with lefties, laterality in the brain is “just so different.”
Dutch researcher Roel M. Willems agreed in an essay for Nature. “To overcome this problem, it is important to develop and adopt methods of analysis at the level of the individual subject rather than the group level; this would then allow left-handers to be included in the study without negatively affecting statistical outcomes,” Willems wrote.