Philadelphia, Sept. 28th 1863.
Permit me, as Editress of the "Lady's Book", to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and -- as I trust -- even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival...
You might think that we owe the celebration of Thanksgiving solely to the pilgrims, but the occasion would have been long forgotten had it not been for Sarah Josepha Hale.
A mother of five, Sarah was a prolific author and poet. 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 nursery rhyme, but she claimed that she did and it was based on a childhood memory.
In 1837 she became the editor of Godey's Lady's Book and remained so for forty years until she was eighty-nine. It's interesting to note that she retired the same year Thomas Edison spoke the opening lines of "Mary's Lamb" on his newly invented phonograph. That was the first recorded speech.
Through her magazine, she set the tone for fashion, reading and cooking. She also 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, no one thought about
Thanksgiving and she decided to change that.
Jennie Augusta Brownscombe
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thus, 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 the idea down.
It says a lot about Sarah’s character that she 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 wrote 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 godmother of Thanksgiving.
As far as I can tell, the one thing Sarah neglected to do was tell us what to do with all the leftovers. Any ideas?
A perfect stocking-stuffer or hostest gift.
Margaret's story: A Texas Ranger for Christmas