The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving


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 ChilHaledren, 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.


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15 thoughts on “The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving”

  1. What an amazing woman. How wonderful that she could remain active and productive into her 90’s. She championed worthy causes and got results. We can all thank her for not giving up on getting Thanksgiving established as a holiday.

    I hope everyone eats too much, enjoys their friends and families, and takes time to think about all they have to be thankful for today.

  2. Have a great Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the authors here who keep me entertained every day through their great writing.

  3. Amazing bit of American history… Happy Thanksgiving… I wonder what Mrs. Hale would think of Black Friday being lumped in with her hard work of getting this day made into a National Holiday. Food for thought…
    Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the US.

    • Hi Kathleen O,
      Yes, I wondered about that, too. After all her hard work I’m sure Mrs. Hale would have been disappointed, maybe even shocked.

      Thank you for stopping by and have a great day!

  4. interesting post,didnt know all this ,,good to know something to tell the grandkids today and see if they know

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