Thanksgiving and Sarah Josepha Hale

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Have you ever heard of Sarah Josepha Hale? I know I hadn't, however I had heard and memorized something she wrote: "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Sarah Hale was an American author and editor. She was also a mother and wife and she is responsible for our national holiday--Thanksgiving. I know you are probably thinking what do you mean she is responsible for Thanksgiving, because that is what I was thinking when I saw this book at the library, but she is the reason we have a national holiday.

Sarah Hale portrait
Sarah Hale By painted by James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Hale was the type of woman who let people know what she was thinking and she did this by writing. She wrote letters to politicians and wrote editorials. For 38 years she tried to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. At one point she got many of the states to declare it a state holiday, but then the Civil War started. After writing to five United States Presidents, she finally got one who said yes to making the fourth Thursday in the month of November a day of Thanksgiving. It was President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War! Hazel and I enjoyed learning a bit about her from a book we found at the library, Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Hale Anderson. Laurie Hale Anderson is a descendent of Sarah Hale.

This book shares a bit about Sarah Hale's life and her fight to have one day our nation gives thanks together like a family. The book also shares a bit about her life accomplishments but does not go into detail about some of the other things she has done. I did a little research because I was interested. Sarah Hale was born on October 24, 1788 as Sarah Buell in Newport, New Hampshire. She was homeschooled and became a local schoolteacher. In 1811 she met a lawyer, David Hale.  They were married in 1813 at her father's Tavern, The Rising Sun. They had five children. In 1822 Sarah gave birth to their fifth child and David Hale passed away. In 1823 Sarah Hale published her first collection of poems. In 1827 she published her first novel. This novel got the attention of Reverend John Blake who asked her to move to Boston and be the editor of his journal, the  Ladies' Magazine. She remained the editress (as she preferred to be called) until 1836. In 1830 a collection of her poems for children was published and this included "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Then Louis Antoine Godey of Philadelphia wanted her to be the editor of his journal. He bought the Ladies' Magazine and renamed it American Ladies Magazine and merged it with his journal. Hale became the editor of Godey's Lady Book in 1837, but she insisted on staying in Boston while her youngest attended Harvard. She retired from her editorial duties in 1877 at age 89. She died in her home in Philadelphia in 1879.

Sarah Hale in Godeys
By Godey's Lady's Book, artist listed as W B Chambers (Library Company)
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hale had many strong beliefs and supported many rights for women however she did not support the right for women to vote. She thought the women could influence the men in their lives. She supported education for women and play and physical education for children. She also became an advocate for the American nation and union. She insisted on publishing American writers when other journals were compiled of British articles.

Bunker Hill Monument Boston
Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, MA By Luciof (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Hale is well known as for saving Thanksgiving. She also raised $30,000 for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. When construction stalled she asked her readers to each donate a dollar and organized a week long craft fair at Quincy Market. She also worked to preserve George Washington's  Mount Vernon plantation. She felt that both Northern and Southern United States could support this historical site.

Mount vernon 003
Mount Vernon By Slowking4 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Sarah Hale was a remarkable woman who made a difference in the history of the United States. She has had a ship, school and prestigious literary prize named after her. (Source) I am so glad we stumbled up Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Hale Anderson at our public library and am going to get out these two books from neighboring libraries to learn even more about this incredible woman.

For more Thanksgiving books and crafts check out: