Miss Lucy Had a Baby Nursery Rhyme- Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More


Miss Lucy Had a Baby also known as Miss Susie Had a Baby is an American playground song and was popular with jump rope before becoming the famous clapping game many of us know.

Sometimes people confuse the song with another song called Miss Susie Had a Steamboat. But are the songs the same?

animation picture of mother and a baby in a bathtub

Do they even share an origin? I look at that and more in the article, so join me.

LYRICS

Lyrics for Miss Lucy Had a Baby As Sung Today

Though the song is about Miss Lucy and a baby called Tiny Tim, you can play with the lyrics and include different names as you see fit. Famous substitutes gave the song another name: Miss Susie Had a Baby.

Miss Lucy had a baby
She named him Tiny Tim
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim.

He drank up all the water
He ate up all the soap.

He tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn’t go down his throa
t

Miss Lucy called the doctor
Miss Lucy called the nurse
Miss Lucy called the lady
With the alligator purse


“Mumps!” said the doctor
“Measles!” said the nurse
“Nothing!” said the lady
With the alligator purse.


Out walked the doctor
Out walked the nurse.
Out walked the lady
With the alligator purse

Full Original Lyrics for Miss Lucy Had a Baby

Though the original song lyrics are hard to find, there are several earlier versions markedly different from the modern version.

Here is one of the earliest American versions of the song.

Miss Susie had a baby
His name was Tiny Tim
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim.


He drank up all the water.
He ate up all the soap.
He tried to eat the bathtub.

But it wouldn’t go down his throat.

Miss Susie called the doctor.
The doctor called the nurse.
The nurse called the lady.
With the alligator purse.


Out ran the doctor.
Out ran the nurse.
Out ran the lady
With the alligator purse.:

And now Tiny Tim
Is home sick in bed,
With soap in his throat
And bubbles in his head.

Here is another earlier version popular in Britain in the 1970s.

The Johnsons had a baby
They called him Tiny Tim, Tim, Tim
They put him in a bathtub
To see if he could swim, swim, swim


He drank up all the water.
He ate a bar of soap, soap, soap
“Mummy, mummy, I feel ill
“Send for the doctor down the hill.”


In came the doctor
In came the nurse
In came the lady
With the alligator purse


“Doctor, doctor, will I die?”
“Yes, my son, but do not cry.
“Close your eyes and
“Count to ten.”


1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10
Out went the doctor
Out went the nurse
Out went the lady
With the alligator purse

How to play the Clapping Game for Miss Lucy Had a Baby

The following are some videos we found with people playing the clapping game to Miss Lucy Had a Baby or the The Lady with the Alligator Purse

THE HISTORY BEHIND MISS LUCY HAD A BABY

Who Wrote the Nursery Rhyme Miss Lucy Had a Baby?

Like with many nursery rhymes, the writer of Miss Lucy Had a Baby has disappeared in the mists of time. The song is quite ancient, which could have something to do with the writer being unknown to most people.

Early generations may have passed the song down from generation to generation orally. With such dissemination, it is always a tall order determining who originally came up with the song since there’s little documentation.

What Inspired the Nursery Rhyme Miss Lucy Had a Baby?

Since no one knows the song’s writer, it’s difficult to determine its inspiration accurately. The song could have developed from a basic but quite similar folk song typical of the 19th century.

One famous song that resembles the song and could have been an inspiration is Miss Lucy had a steamboat.

The two share the same tune, and Miss Lucy Had a Baby could be a variant of Miss Lucy had a Steamboat. Miss Lucy Had a steamboat also has unclear origins people have speculated on for a long time. It has some resemblance to another song called Bang Bang Loo.

However, this inspiration for the latter song has little direct correlation to Miss Lucy Had a Baby.

Azizi Powell, on her blog, speculated that the song could have developed from African American communities in the early 20th century. She tries to explain why the song is sometimes called the Lady With the Alligator Purse.

In her explanation, the lady with the alligator purse comes in after the doctor and the nurse. She seems to have more experience than any of them, so her decision is final.

Those are possibly guesses on what may have inspired the song. However, they make for an interesting aspect of the rhyme.

WHAT DO THE WORDS MEAN? DEFINITIONS

What Does the Nursery Rhyme Miss Lucy Had a Baby Mean?

The nursery rhyme talks of a young woman whose strange baby gobbles up all the water and soap in a bathtub. These strange events have no deeper meaning. They are only words strung together to make up a children’s song.

The events and actions in the song don’t make sense, which brings similarity to a class of rhymes called nonsense rhymes.

Nonsense rhymes are songs with words, or actions that make little sense. So do the events in Miss Lucy Had a Baby. Therefore, it’s challenging to decipher if any of them have a deeper meaning beyond the plain meaning we get.

What Is a Bathtub?

A bathtub is a large container used for washing oneself. It is usually rectangle-shaped to hold a large amount of water.

What’s an Alligator Purse?

An alligator purse is a small bag carried by women and made from the skin of an alligator.

Are Measles and Mumps the Same?

Mumps is a viral disease that affects the salivary glands, making them swell. Someone with mumps appears to have swollen cheeks. Measles is also a viral disease with rash-like developments on the body and flu-like symptoms.

The two ailments aren’t the same.

INTERESTING FACTS & QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Who Was the Lady With the Alligator Purse?

Miss Lucy Had a Baby is sometimes called The Lady With the Aligator Purse. That’s because it mentions a lady with an alligator purse having the final say over what ails the baby in the song.

Who was this woman, though? There are many theories about who the woman with the alligator purse could have been.

Some theories say she was a herbalist or a non-establishment health practitioner. The alligator purse could have been the standard purse carried by herbalists back in the day?

Another theory is that the lady was a social worker. However, there’s little evidence that social workers in the past walked around with alligator purses.

Also, with an illness or problem with a baby, you wouldn’t call in a social worker when you have a doctor and nurse.

That leaves the simple theory that they added the lady with the alligator purse to make the song rhyme better. The word purse rhymes perfectly with the word nurse, which makes the lady with an alligator purse a suitable candidate for a line in the song.

I’m more inclined to go with the last theory of the lady with the alligator purse not being a reference to a particular historical figure.

Is Tiny Tim A Historical Figure?

Tiny Tim is the name of the baby that runs amok in the song, and no, he isn’t an actual historical figure.

For ukulele enthusiasts, Tiny Tim is a famous musician that ruled the airwaves in the 1960s. Tiny can’t be the baby the song refers to since he was only born in 1932. The song had long existed when he was born.

Some versions use different names, including female characters. It proves that Tiny Tim is just another name fixed into the song with no historical bearings.

Are Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat and Miss Lucy Had a Baby the Same?

Although the two share a tune and are almost similar in name, they aren’t the same. Miss Lucy Had a Baby is a variant of Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat.

The two songs also have vastly different origin theories, proving they aren’t the same. Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat could have appeared earlier of the two and inspired Miss Lucy Had a Baby.

The former can trace its roots to 1844 when a boat called Lucy blew up in a race. It’s unclear if that steamboat inspired the famous song, though.

Is Miss Lucy Had a Baby In the Public Domain?

picture of a child and a thought bubble with the words: is this a public-domain song?

Yes, Miss Lucy Had a Baby is a public-domain song. No one has the copyright to the music. Therefore, you can use it in your work. (Disclaimer: This is a general–not a legally confirmed fact, and you need to research the laws in your jurisdiction/country to ensure you may use this song).

Though the song has existed for centuries, no one has ever made it their exclusive property. Any work copyrighted or published before 1925 is in the public domain today. This song existed long before 1925, making it a public-domain song.

However, you can’t use someone’s song’s adaptation without permission. This applies to popular versions on YouTube. You can’t use such versions without the consent of the owners.

How Do You Sing Miss Lucy Had a Baby in Sign Language?

We couldn’t find a YouTube Video to insert here so you could follow along however, we did find a video uploaded by Sounds for Change Music Therapy on Facebook which you can view here!

Lesson Plans and Activities Inspired By Miss Lucy Had a Baby

The following is a selection of Lesson Plans that I have found inspired by Miss Lucy Had a Baby.

Other websites host all the lessons, so you will need to click on the images to learn more and download their resources.

Sheet Music for Miss Lucy Had a Baby

Can You Play Miss Lucy Had a Baby On An Instrument?

You can play Miss Lucy Had a Baby with a guitar. Use this YouTube resource to try. There are no resources for playing the song with other instruments.

Samantha

Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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