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Sarah Josepha Hale

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Sarah Josepha Hale

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Sarah Josepha Hale, née Sarah Josepha Buell, (born Oct. 24, 1788, Newport, N.H., U.S.—died April 30, 1879, Philadelphia, Pa.), American writer who, as the first female editor of a magazine, shaped many of the attitudes and thoughts of women of her period.

Sarah Josepha Buell married David Hale in 1813, and with him she had five children. Left in financial straits by her husband’s death in 1822, she embarked on a literary career. Her poems were printed over the signature Cornelia in local journals and were gathered in The Genius of Oblivion (1823). A novel, Northwood, a Tale of New England (1827), brought her an offer to go to Boston as editor of a new publication, the Ladies’ Magazine (from 1834 the American Ladies’ Magazine), which she accepted in 1828.

As editor, Hale wrote most of the material for each issue herself—literary criticism, sketches of American life, essays, and poetry. Editorially and personally she supported patriotic and humanitarian organizations, notably the Boston Ladies’ Peace Society and the Seaman’s Aid Society, which she founded in 1833. She advocated education for women and opportunities for women to teach, although she always remained apart from formal feminist movements. She also advised her readers to shun “unfeminine” involvement in public affairs. The greater access to education—particularly higher education—that men possessed, she argued, prepared them for leadership roles that women could not assume, because there were few educational opportunities for women at the time. She also published during this period Poems for Our Children (1830), containing her single most famous piece, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and in 1834–36 edited the Juvenile Miscellany magazine for children.

In 1837 Louis A. Godey took over the American Ladies’ Magazine and established Hale as editor of his Lady’s Book, soon known as Godey’s Lady’s Book, which he had established seven years earlier in Philadelphia. She moved to that city in 1841. With Godey she made the Lady’s Book into the most influential and widely circulated women’s magazine published in the country up to that time (by 1860 its circulation was reputedly 150,000). Hale did much to encourage original work by American writers among those published in the Lady’s Book were Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She also continued to call for female education in the liberal arts and for more women teachers, and hers was among the most persuasive voices that encouraged the founding of Vassar College.

In later years Hale liberalized her outlook so far as to approve women doctors, if only to treat those ailments of women that she felt were otherwise better endured than examined by male physicians. She was also active in promoting child welfare, and she published a number of books, including cookbooks, poetry, and prose. Her major achievement was the Woman’s Record or, Sketches of Distinguished Women, issued in 1853, 1869, and 1876 in the course of this ambitious project she completed some 36 volumes of profiles of women, tracing their influence through history on social organization and literature. She retired from Godey’s Lady’s Book in December 1877 at the age of 89.


Hale, Sarah Josepha

An avid young reader who had never come across a book written by a woman, Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was inspired from an early age to &ldquopromote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.&rdquo And so she did. A staunch advocate for women&rsquos education and economic independence, Sarah became a pioneering editor and prolific writer who published nearly fifty volumes of work &ndash novels, short stories, cookbooks, poems &ndash throughout her life, one of which included her most famous nursery rhyme, &lsquoMary Had A Little Lamb&rsquo (1830). She&rsquos also known as the &ldquoGodmother of Thanksgiving&rdquo for her tireless campaign to establish the day as a national holiday in America.

Sarah Josepha Buell was blessed with a mother who homeschooled her. Born in 1788, Sarah grew into an avid reader. But she made an astute observation &ndash &ldquoof all the books I saw, few were written by Americans, and none by women,&rdquo so she decided to &ldquopromote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.&rdquo But there was a snag. Women weren&rsquot allowed to attend college. She could have stopped formal learning, but she didn&rsquot. Her brother shared his Dartmouth textbooks and Sarah&rsquos self-education continued. She began writing poems and teaching. Then, Sarah married David Hale and began raising children. With the responsibilities of running a busy household, surely, she had plenty of reasons to stop reading, writing, and preparing her mind. Right?

Sarah and her husband remained on a regiment of learning. For two hours every evening, David taught Sarah reasoning-and they cherished the time together. He was indeed a smart man because, after he died of a stroke nine years into their marriage and two weeks after the couple&rsquos fifth child was born, Sarah Josepha Hale was not left unprepared and helpless. Undoubtedly she was devastated in 1822 with her husbands death, but sometimes it&rsquos the worst in life that requires one to buck up and tackle challenges.

Sarah knew how to write and was already stocked with a collection of poems she wrote before her husband&rsquos death. Those were published and then a second book followed in 1830. Poems for Our Children was a hit with &ldquoMary Had a Little Lamb,&rdquo one of her most famous poems. It followed her wherever she went&hellip 😉 Hale wrote books and became the editor of a ladies&rsquo magazine. Steadily she wrote her way into prominence and used her position to improve life for families in America-not just her own family&rsquos life.

Sarah&rsquos &ldquopredilection for literary pursuits&rdquo became the vehicle through which she advocated for women. In 1828, she took the helm at Ladies&rsquo Magazine of Boston, the first magazine edited for women by a woman. Nine years later, it merged with Lady&rsquos Book, a journal published in Philadelphia by Louis Godey, becoming Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book. That&rsquos where Sarah took on her preferred title of &ldquoEditress&rdquo, which she held for forty years, until her retirement in 1877 at age 89. In that time, she made Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book one of the most-read women&rsquos magazines of the 19th century.

Through the pages of her influential editorial platform, Sarah was the arbiter of womanhood as she defined it. Among the hand-colored fashion plates, household tips, recipes, and moral stories that peppered Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book, she wrote of the importance of girls&rsquo and women&rsquos education, argued for &ldquoproperty rights for married women and improvements in women&rsquos wages&rdquo, and published works from women contributors. But, interestingly, Sarah also believed in gender roles &ndash men do this, women do that &ndash and was opposed to women&rsquos suffrage (voting fell into her man sphere because 1. politics would apparently corrupt women&rsquos moral compasses and 2. it would lessen their influence at home).

It was Sarah&rsquos reverence for the domestic arts that brings us to how she became known as the &ldquoGodmother of Thanksgiving&rdquo. Thanksgiving had been celebrated in the U.S. since the 1600s, but not in all States and with no set date. Sarah set out to change this. So in her first year running Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book, Sarah wrote the first of her Thanksgiving editorials, &ldquopraising the holiday for its domestic and moral influence.&rdquo

&ldquo&hellipmight, without inconvenience, be observed on the same day of November, say the last Thursday in the month, throughout all New England and also in our sister states, who have engrafted it upon their social system. It would then have a national character, which would, eventually, induce all the states to join in the commemoration of &lsquoIngathering,&rsquo which it celebrates. It is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart &ndash the social and domestic ties. It calls together the dispersed members of the family circle, and brings plenty, joy and gladness to the dwellings of the poor and lowly.&rdquo

This kicked off her nearly 26-year long, one-woman crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In addition to using the pages of Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book to campaign, Sarah also wrote letters to any and every politician she could reach, and lobbied no fewer than four U.S. presidents.

As civil war ravaged our nation, this patriot woman did not believe that her voice was too insignificant to matter. Sarah Josepha Hale persistently wrote letters and finally earned President Abraham Lincoln&rsquos attention. As a middle-aged woman, she wanted her countrymen to consider the blessings they&rsquod been given &ndash even though the United States was far from united. Embroiled in an ugly civil war between ideologies&ndash angry words and battles ended relationships between friends and family members. But, Sarah Josepha Hale recognized a truth. She could not sit back. She would not allow herself to feel helpless. Her voice was NOT too insignificant. Her life and contributions mattered.

Sarah Josepha Hale decided to petition President Lincoln for a national holiday-a day of thanks. And, she got it. She wrote the following excerpts to Lincoln on September 28, 1863 and by October 3, 1863 Lincoln agreed:

&ldquoSir.&ndash Permit me, as Editress of the &ldquoLady&rsquos Book&rdquo, to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and &mdash as I trust &mdash 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&hellipFor the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the &ldquoLady&rsquos Book&rdquo, and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories &mdash also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen &mdash and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients, I have received, uniformly the most kind approval.

Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union. But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid &mdash that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day &mdash or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has occurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment. I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject. As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag &mdash could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus, the great Union Festival of America would be established. Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.&rdquo

Finally, on October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation making the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day. In the days before women could vote, how did she become so influential? Hale had prepared for years before finally winning her campaign for Thanksgiving. Are you preparing to have influence today and in the future?

It&rsquos quite a story, isn&rsquot it? This middle-aged woman from the war-torn 1800s (who wasn&rsquot allowed to attend college&hellipwhose husband died leaving her alone with five children), still managed to pull herself up by her patriot bootstraps and influence President Abraham Lincoln, of all people, to proclaim a holiday that you&rsquore about to enjoy-a century and a half later. She could have opted for the path of a sad sob story&ndash fading away into self-pity or dependency on others. But, naw. She was prepared for the challenges.


Great Women In History: Sarah Josepha Hale

How could I forget Sarah Josepha Hale, the actual founder of Thanksgiving!!

Columnist Alex Seitz-Wald, (National Journal) recently wrote about, “The Woman Who Convinced Abraham Lincoln To Create Thanksgiving.” Quite a feat considering Lincoln was probably tied up with a Civil War on his hands and grumpy citizens both North and South. Seitz-Wald begins with…”Every schoolchild who’s drawn a hand turkey knows that the Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving In Plymouth, Mass., in 1621.” But OUR Thanksgiving holiday didn’t begin for another 240 years! And would you believe that Sarah Josepha campaigned tirelessly for over 17 years, lobbied five presidents and dozens of governors before Thanksgiving actually became a national holiday on the last Thursday in November.

At a time when women were not given much education and were expected to “stay quiet,” Sarah Josepha was definitely a shining star. She was well-educated and enjoyed a remarkable career as an editor, novelist, activist, and abolitionist. She is remembered as the longest serving editor of the most popular women’s magazine, “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” serving for over 41 years!

Sarah Josepha married David Hale in 1813, at “The Rising Sun,” a tavern her father had opened in Newport. Sarah Josepha and David Hale had five children. David Hale died in 1822, and Sarah Josepha wore black for the rest of her life in perpetual morning. She was left with very little money, but most fortunately managed to get a book of poems published. That success led to her first novel, “Northwood: Life North and South,” published the same year as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Sarah Josepha is also known for her collection of “Poems For Our Children,” which includes “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” published in 1830. She continued to write, publishing nearly 50 volumes in her lifetime.

She remained at Godey’s and became one one of the most influential arbiters of American taste. With no significant competitors, Godey’s had unimaginable influence not only with fashions for women’s clothes, but published house plans that were copied by home builders nationwide. As a successful editor, Sarah Josepha wrote for women in matters of fashion, cooking, literature, and morality. She did, however, reinforce stereotypical gender roles, emphasizing domestic roles for women, while casually trying to expand on it. Although she did not support women’s suffrage, she also believed in the “secret, silent influence of women,” to sway men voters. As an advocate of women’s higher education and she helped found Vassar College. She is credited with making the founding of all-women’s colleges acceptable to the public.

Sarah Josepha Hale is the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. She advocated for the preservation of George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation, as a symbol of patriotism everyone could support. She raised more than $30,000 for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. The prestigious Sarah Josepha Hale literary prize is named after her. She is honored by an historical doll created for the New Hampshire Historical Society and was honored by having a high school named after her by the New York City Board of Education.

Sarah Josepha Hale’s most significant achievement was a national day of thanks. With a stroke of his pen, Lincoln began our tradition of Thanksgiving, designating the last Thursday in November “…to be observed by all my fellow citizens, wherever they may be, as a day of Thanksgiving.” The holiday has been observed without interruption, though it took until 1941 for Congress to codify Thanksgiving into law.

In her novel, “Northwood,” Sarah Josepha Hale laid out what a typical Thanksgiving feast would look like: Roasted turkey, other meats, gravy, stuffing, vegetables including squash, green beans and salads, especially cole slaw. The celebrated pumpkin pie would forever be an indispensable part of a good and true Thanksgiving.

Despite her accomplishments Sarah Josepha Hale has been largely forgotten by history. She was a feminist, basically because her life work was to get women educated, although her magazine reinforced traditional, middle-class ideals of domestic femininity. Women were to be educated, but for their own edification and as a means to improve their ability to be effective mothers. Although she thought women to be the superior sex, she opposed suffrage, believing women had a duty to hold society together from their homes. (It is more than a bit ironic that Sarah Josepha herself seemed to live by none of these values, leaving her children behind in New Hampshire to move to Boston and pursue a career in magazine editing). “She was extremely well-known. Her editorials held huge sway,” says Mary Lou McGuire,** the archivist at the Richard’s Free Library in Newport, N.H. Over her long career, Sarah Josepha found it maddening that women did not have the same education as men. She used her “perch” to advocate for women’s education and insisted that Vassar College, drop “female” from its name..

Sarah Josepha Hale retired from her editorial duties in 1877, at the age of 89. That same year, Thomas Edison spoke the opening lines of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” as the first speech ever recorded on his newly invented phonograph.

Even though Sarah Jessica Hale “got left by the wayside,” as McGuire** reminds us, she continues to exert silent influence in every American’s home the last Thursday in November.

For more information about Sarah Josepha Hale, please read:

“Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving,” by Laurie Halse Anderson
“Sarah Josepha Hale: The Life and Times of a Nineteenth Century Woman,” by Norma R. Fryatt
“More Than Petticoats: Remarkable New Hampshire Women” by Gail Underwood Parker

*Alex Seitz-Wald (National Journal 11/28/13
**Mary Lou McGuire (Richards Free Library)


Hale, Sarah Josepha [Buell] (1788-1879)

Born in Newport, New Hampshire, educated at home, and married in 1813, Hale was widowed nine years later with five children to raise. In 1828 she moved to Boston to edit the Ladies’ Magazine, the first substantial magazine in the United States for women. It was merged ten years later with Louis Godey’s Lady’s Book, and she relocated to Philadelphia in 1841, since Godey’s offices were there. With a circulation that reached 150,000 in the 1860s, the journal she edited set the standards of progressive feminism. A supporter of the Female Medical School of Pennsylvania (1850), she was also a supporter and served as secretary of the Ladies’ Medical Missionary Society (1851), which merged with the Woman’s Union Missionary Society in 1860. During the 1860s Hale headed the Philadelphia branch of the latter. A constant advocate of women’s education, she urged that women be trained as medical doctors to deal with feminine needs at home and in the work of overseas missions.

Robert T. Coote, “Hale, Sarah Josepha (Buell),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 274-5.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

For a descriptive bibliography of complete works, consult “Sarah J. Hale.” Bibliography of American Literature. Comp. Jacob Blanck. Vol. 3. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959, 319-40.

Each of the twelve monthly issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book for 1864 is available at the Internet Archive.

Digital Texts

__________. Sketches of American Character. Fourth edition. Boston: Freeman Hunt, 1831.

_____. Traits of American Life . Philadelphia, PA: E. L. Carey & A. Hart, 1835.


Hale, Sarah Josepha

An avid young reader who had never come across a book written by a woman, Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was inspired from an early age to &ldquopromote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.&rdquo And so she did. A staunch advocate for women&rsquos education and economic independence, Sarah became a pioneering editor and prolific writer who published nearly fifty volumes of work &ndash novels, short stories, cookbooks, poems &ndash throughout her life, one of which included her most famous nursery rhyme, &lsquoMary Had A Little Lamb&rsquo (1830). She&rsquos also known as the &ldquoGodmother of Thanksgiving&rdquo for her tireless campaign to establish the day as a national holiday in America.

Sarah Josepha Buell was blessed with a mother who homeschooled her. Born in 1788, Sarah grew into an avid reader. But she made an astute observation &ndash &ldquoof all the books I saw, few were written by Americans, and none by women,&rdquo so she decided to &ldquopromote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.&rdquo But there was a snag. Women weren&rsquot allowed to attend college. She could have stopped formal learning, but she didn&rsquot. Her brother shared his Dartmouth textbooks and Sarah&rsquos self-education continued. She began writing poems and teaching. Then, Sarah married David Hale and began raising children. With the responsibilities of running a busy household, surely, she had plenty of reasons to stop reading, writing, and preparing her mind. Right?

Sarah and her husband remained on a regiment of learning. For two hours every evening, David taught Sarah reasoning-and they cherished the time together. He was indeed a smart man because, after he died of a stroke nine years into their marriage and two weeks after the couple&rsquos fifth child was born, Sarah Josepha Hale was not left unprepared and helpless. Undoubtedly she was devastated in 1822 with her husbands death, but sometimes it&rsquos the worst in life that requires one to buck up and tackle challenges.

Sarah knew how to write and was already stocked with a collection of poems she wrote before her husband&rsquos death. Those were published and then a second book followed in 1830. Poems for Our Children was a hit with &ldquoMary Had a Little Lamb,&rdquo one of her most famous poems. It followed her wherever she went&hellip 😉 Hale wrote books and became the editor of a ladies&rsquo magazine. Steadily she wrote her way into prominence and used her position to improve life for families in America-not just her own family&rsquos life.

Sarah&rsquos &ldquopredilection for literary pursuits&rdquo became the vehicle through which she advocated for women. In 1828, she took the helm at Ladies&rsquo Magazine of Boston, the first magazine edited for women by a woman. Nine years later, it merged with Lady&rsquos Book, a journal published in Philadelphia by Louis Godey, becoming Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book. That&rsquos where Sarah took on her preferred title of &ldquoEditress&rdquo, which she held for forty years, until her retirement in 1877 at age 89. In that time, she made Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book one of the most-read women&rsquos magazines of the 19th century.

Through the pages of her influential editorial platform, Sarah was the arbiter of womanhood as she defined it. Among the hand-colored fashion plates, household tips, recipes, and moral stories that peppered Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book, she wrote of the importance of girls&rsquo and women&rsquos education, argued for &ldquoproperty rights for married women and improvements in women&rsquos wages&rdquo, and published works from women contributors. But, interestingly, Sarah also believed in gender roles &ndash men do this, women do that &ndash and was opposed to women&rsquos suffrage (voting fell into her man sphere because 1. politics would apparently corrupt women&rsquos moral compasses and 2. it would lessen their influence at home).

It was Sarah&rsquos reverence for the domestic arts that brings us to how she became known as the &ldquoGodmother of Thanksgiving&rdquo. Thanksgiving had been celebrated in the U.S. since the 1600s, but not in all States and with no set date. Sarah set out to change this. So in her first year running Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book, Sarah wrote the first of her Thanksgiving editorials, &ldquopraising the holiday for its domestic and moral influence.&rdquo

&ldquo&hellipmight, without inconvenience, be observed on the same day of November, say the last Thursday in the month, throughout all New England and also in our sister states, who have engrafted it upon their social system. It would then have a national character, which would, eventually, induce all the states to join in the commemoration of &lsquoIngathering,&rsquo which it celebrates. It is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart &ndash the social and domestic ties. It calls together the dispersed members of the family circle, and brings plenty, joy and gladness to the dwellings of the poor and lowly.&rdquo

This kicked off her nearly 26-year long, one-woman crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In addition to using the pages of Godey&rsquos Lady&rsquos Book to campaign, Sarah also wrote letters to any and every politician she could reach, and lobbied no fewer than four U.S. presidents.

As civil war ravaged our nation, this patriot woman did not believe that her voice was too insignificant to matter. Sarah Josepha Hale persistently wrote letters and finally earned President Abraham Lincoln&rsquos attention. As a middle-aged woman, she wanted her countrymen to consider the blessings they&rsquod been given &ndash even though the United States was far from united. Embroiled in an ugly civil war between ideologies&ndash angry words and battles ended relationships between friends and family members. But, Sarah Josepha Hale recognized a truth. She could not sit back. She would not allow herself to feel helpless. Her voice was NOT too insignificant. Her life and contributions mattered.

Sarah Josepha Hale decided to petition President Lincoln for a national holiday-a day of thanks. And, she got it. She wrote the following excerpts to Lincoln on September 28, 1863 and by October 3, 1863 Lincoln agreed:

&ldquoSir.&ndash Permit me, as Editress of the &ldquoLady&rsquos Book&rdquo, to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and &mdash as I trust &mdash 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&hellipFor the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the &ldquoLady&rsquos Book&rdquo, and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories &mdash also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen &mdash and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients, I have received, uniformly the most kind approval.

Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union. But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid &mdash that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day &mdash or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has occurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment. I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject. As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag &mdash could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus, the great Union Festival of America would be established. Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.&rdquo

Finally, on October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation making the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day. In the days before women could vote, how did she become so influential? Hale had prepared for years before finally winning her campaign for Thanksgiving. Are you preparing to have influence today and in the future?

It&rsquos quite a story, isn&rsquot it? This middle-aged woman from the war-torn 1800s (who wasn&rsquot allowed to attend college&hellipwhose husband died leaving her alone with five children), still managed to pull herself up by her patriot bootstraps and influence President Abraham Lincoln, of all people, to proclaim a holiday that you&rsquore about to enjoy-a century and a half later. She could have opted for the path of a sad sob story&ndash fading away into self-pity or dependency on others. But, naw. She was prepared for the challenges.


Sarah Josepha Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale
19th Century Editor/Author
By Anne Adams

While today we celebrate Thanksgiving as an annual holiday or sing Mary Had a Little Lamb we would probably never think of the woman behind these American traditions. Yet in the 1800s Sarah Josepha Hale was a major figure not just as a prolific author but also editor of perhaps the most influential women’s magazines of her time. It was in this capacity that she published many influential authors of her day—both male and female—and all the while stressing the importance of a woman’s role as a homemaker and social arbiter. For while Mrs. Hale was not a feminist by modern standards and her opinions were standard for her era, she was unique because she demonstrated a driving ambition and entrepreneurial spirit unusual in a woman of her time.

Sarah Josepha Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788, the daughter of a mother who insisted on educating Sarah herself. Her father was a Revolutionary War soldier whose patriotism she absorbed, and she learned Latin and philosophy from an older brother who attended Dartmouth . This education enabled her to teach for several years before she married David Hale in 1813. For several years after her marriage she was a homemaker while her husband always encouraged her writing and studying. David Hale’s unexpected death in 1822 left Sarah with five children and no profession in a time when respectable women could not “properly” earn money—even if they needed to.

Sarah’s brother-in-law helped her begin a millinery business but since her real desire was to support herself with her writing she dedicated her entire energy to that end, publishing a volume of poetry in 1823, followed by a novel in 1827. It was this latter publication that persuaded Rev. John Lauris Blake to ask her to become editor of a new women’s magazine he was beginning in Boston . While there had previously been several attempts at “Ladies’ Magazines” which failed, this one survived and prospered. In 1837 Louis A. Godey acquired the publication and changed its name to “Godey’s Ladies’ Book” and while Godey’s sales skills helped, it was Sarah’s skill as an editor and writer that assured its success. She remained editor until she retired at age 89 in 1877 before her death two years later.

In her magazine, Sarah reflected the general belief that women were not equal to men, but actually superior and because they were they should demonstrate this “superiority” by inspiring men to greater purpose and accomplishment in their private and public lives. In her 1868 book Manners or, Happy Homes and Good Society All the Year Round she wrote that woman “was the last work of creation. Every step, from matter to man, had been in the ascending scale. Was this last step downward?”

Yet women need not seek political and social equality to exercise this influence—in fact they did it best as wives and mothers and to help her readers to do so Sarah and her magazine encouraged the elevation of the homemaker’s position. She always used the term “domestic science” for the housewife’s job, and encouraged this image in her cook books and housekeeping guides. Yet while she was a great advocate of higher education for women, as demonstrated in her work in helping organizing Vassar College , she was resolute in her belief that the place of college-educated women was in the home, not in the business world.

Another important book was Woman’s Record or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women from the Creation to A.D. 1854, Arranged in Four Eras, with Selections from Female Writers of Every Age. The book went through three editions, and even to the modern reader it is an amusing evidence of Sarah’s personality. Sarah described many different women in history, even malicious figures, but not necessarily with condemnation. She described Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia: “Whatever might be her own irregularities, she strictly discountenanced violations of decorum.”

Yet perhaps it could be said that it was Sarah’s position as editor of such a prestigious publication that she was able to accomplish all she did, and it was in the pages of her magazine that she contributed to the literature of the time. She was one of the first to publish Edgar Allen Poe, and became an important sponsor of that troubled writer. She also published Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as prominent women authors, This included such important figures as Lucretia Mott, Emma Willard, Susan B. Anthony and other women activists of the time.

Sarah also campaigned for support of the Bunker Hill battle monument, the preservation of Mount Vernon , and was a major force behind the drive that ended with President Abraham Lincoln’s institution of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

There had previously been officially proclaimed days of thanksgiving, but Sarah began her crusade for a regular national celebration early in her editorial career. She worked hard to encourage her 150,000 plus readers to join her in petitioning their government leaders and other public figures. For many years she published a steady stream of petitions, articles, and editorials requesting that the last Thursday in November be established to “offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year.”

Then in 1863 after the important Union victory at Gettysburg national optimism combined with Sarah’s energetic editorials persuaded Lincoln to issue the proclamation on October 3, 1863 establishing the holiday.

Another contribution to American folklore was her creation of the children’s classic rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb. When Sarah heard of how a little girl’s pet lamb had followed her to a country schoolhouse, she created the verse and published it in the September, 1830 issue of a children’s magazine she edited. It endured as a classic and by 1857 had become so standard that it appeared as a lesson in a McGuffey reader.
Though she may not be as familiar as other writers of her time, Sarah Josepha Hale was a major figure in publication and literature of her time and as such he used her influence for the benefit of both her readers and her era.

A native of Kansas City , Missouri , Anne grew up in northwestern Ohio , and holds degrees in history: a BA from Wilmington College , Wilmington , Ohio (1967), and a MA from Central Missouri State University , Warrensburg , Missouri (1968). A freelance writer since the early 1970s, she has published in Christian and secular publications, has taught history on the junior college level, and has spoken at national and local writers’ conferences. Her book “Brittany, Child of Joy”, an account of her severely retarded daughter, was issued by Broadman Press in 1987. She also publishes an encouragement newsletter “Rainbows Along the Way.”


To the congregations of God

Thanksgiving has a rich and complicated history, but at the core of our modern Thanksgiving Day is Sarah Hale, without her influence we would likely not have Thanksgiving Day. Sarah had a difficult and trying life. She had lost her husband and had 5 children to feed, (all of them 7 years or younger) so she earned money by writing. Her first major success was a book titled Northwood. Which had an entire chapter dedicated to a Thanksgiving at the protagonist's house. Another of Hale's noteworthy additions to American culture is the poem Mary Had a Little Lamb. Sarah Hale has had significant influence on the social life of Americans.

She campaigned relentlessly for a national Thanksgiving for almost 40 years. Writing thousands of letters to state and territory governors to proclaim Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November. She was so influential that she has been given credit for single-handedly convincing President Lincoln in 1863 to produce the first presidential thanksgiving proclamation in the unbroken tradition of observance.

The Thanksgiving Sarah Hale described and proposed was a mixed holiday of the current religious ideals with all the festivities of the English harvest festivals. Her idea was to create a holiday that not only copied God's Holy Days, but actively absorbed those from other religions. She actively preached of syncretism 1 between Thanksgiving and God's Holy days. Before we look at the exact words Sarah Hale wrote about Thanksgiving, we need to understand the vast influence she had over the country's culture. Here is a piece written about Sarah Hale from the book Thanksgiving An American Holiday, An American History, written by Diana Applebaum.

The success of Northwood led to a job as editor of the Ladies' Magazine in Boston, one of the earliest women's magazines and the first to be edited by a woman. In 1837, the Ladies' Magazine merged with the Lady's Book of Philadelphia, and Mrs. Hale became the editor of the new Lady's Book and Magazine, published by L. A. Godey.

Godey's Lady's Book was, for the next two decades, the most widely distributed periodical of any kind in the United States. It was read in New York town houses, on southern plantations and in cabins on the western frontier. Not precisely comparable to any single periodical today, the Lady's Book under Mrs. Hale's direction exercised an influence of the magnitude of Seventeen, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and Better Homes and Gardens combined. When Godey's printed a new bonnet style, milliners from coast to coast fashioned copies for their customers. Godey's published plans for &ldquomodel cottages,&rdquo and carpenters from Baltimore to Portland built houses &ldquolike the picture in the Lady's Book.&rdquo Hers was a powerful position, and Mrs. Hale chose to use it to make Thanksgiving a national holiday
Thanksgiving An American Holiday, An American History, Diana Applebaum 1985

Mrs. Hale was the leading instigator in making the Thanksgiving Day holiday what it is today. The origins of Thanksgiving Day cannot be fully discussed without acknowledging the influence of Sarah Hale.

Each year Mrs. Hale wrote a rhapsodic editorial on the desirability of a national Thanksgiving Day. November issues of the Lady's Book featured Thanksgiving Poetry and stories of families reunited on Thanksgiving Day. Household advice columns carried directions on how to stuff a turkey and bake a mince pie. Mrs. Hale intended to tell her readers about Thanksgiving and teach them to celebrate it until the holiday became as familiar a household custom in Mississippi and Nebraska as it was in New Hampshire.
Thanksgiving An American Holiday, An American History, Diana Applebaum 1985

Sarah J. Hale, advocate of education for women, who's Lady's Book was for forty years one of the most influential periodicals of its time, crusaded in her magazine and in letters to both Lincoln and Seward &ldquoto have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed Union Festival.&rdquo

This idea made practical political sense. Lincoln (like his Confederate counterpart, Jeff Davis) was having difficulty maintaining authority over some governors. State sovereignty was asserted as the armies of both North and South were recruited and marched proudly under state flags. Needed to rally war-weary citizens was some act of nationalization, a symbolic tightening of the bonds of unity.

Lincoln seized the opportunity presented by the &ldquoeditress&rdquo (a formulation that never caught on) to draw Americans together on both national and religious grounds.
.
The moral purpose of Lincoln's uncharacteristic religiosity was to unify deeply divided Americans around an event already steeped in tradition and reflecting a common spiritual value. His political purpose in nationalizing Thanksgiving Day, making it the same day throughout the country, and &ldquoset apart&rdquo (evoking the phrase chosen by George Washington) by the nation's president, was to emphasize the symbol of central authority. Both the moral and political purposes were well served at the time the Union was in peril of being sundered.
The Thanksgiving Ceremony, Edward Bleier , foreward, William Safire


Sarah Josepha Hale

One of America's first woman editors. Hale greatly increased subscriptions to Godey's Lady's Book in her four decades as editor. She successfully promoted a national Thanksgiving Day to President Lincoln. The author and women's rights advocate lived here.

Erected 2015 by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music &bull Entertainment &bull Women. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission series lists.

Location. 39° 56.76′ N, 75° 9.45′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is on Spruce Street east of South 10th Avenue, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 922 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19107, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Joseph Bonaparte (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line) Mikveh Israel Cemetery (about 500 feet away) a different marker also named Mikveh Israel Cemetery (about 500 feet away) Henry George (about 700 feet away) First Republican National Convention

Credits. This page was last revised on August 23, 2018. It was originally submitted on August 23, 2018, by Robyn Young of Media, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 332 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on August 23, 2018, by Robyn Young of Media, Pennsylvania. 2. submitted on August 23, 2018. &bull Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

Editor&rsquos want-list for this marker. Distance photo of the marker and surroundings. &bull &bull Can you help?


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