You might think that we owe the celebration of Thanksgiving solely to the pilgrims, but in reality we have Sarah Josepha Hale to thank for it.
Sarah was a prolific author, editor, poet and mother of five. Her second book of poetry Poems for Our Children, published in 1830, included Mary Had a Little Lamb. Controversy still exists as to whether she actually wrote the well-known ditty, but she claimed that she did and it was based on her experiences as a teacher.
In 1837 she became the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and remained so for forty years until she was ninety. Through her magazine, she set the tone for fashion, reading and cooking. She supported many women’s endeavors including Elizabeth Blackwell’s bid to become a doctor. She also helped raise funds to preserve Mount Vernon.
After reading about the pilgrim’s feast she became captivated by the idea of creating a national Thanksgiving holiday. Two hundred years after the pilgrim’s arrival Thanksgiving had been mostly forgotten. Sarah decided to change that.
So began what would turn out to be a thirty-eight year letter writing campaign. Four U.S. Presidents from Zachary Taylor to James Buchanan turned her idea down.
But Sarah never gave up, not even when the country was at war. At the age of seventy-four she wrote to President Lincoln urging him to make Thanksgiving an annual national holiday. She told him in her letter that a holiday wouldn’t stop the war but it would bring the country together. Abraham Lincoln agreed and in 1863 declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
So as we enjoy our turkey and pumpkin pie, let’s make a toast to Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who saved Thanksgiving.
Coming December 1st
Many things are worth dying for but modesty isn’t one of them-Petticoat Detective
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