Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sarah Josepha Hale

Many Civil War students know that President Lincoln issued a proclamation in October 1863 calling for a day of "thanksgiving and prayer" to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Congress later moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday in November.
However, what is not remembered is the campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788. She was widowed at an early age and became a writer to support her five children. She wrote the famous nursery rhyme that begins "Mary had a little lamb.."

She loved Thanksgiving, which was already a New England tradition. In her 1827 novel, Northwood, she described a Thanksgiving dinner:

"The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the frost of the basting. At the foot of the board a surloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and a joint of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and a pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table .... There was a huge plumb pudding, custards, and pies of every name and description ever known in Yankee land; yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche."

When Hale became editor of a popular women's magazine called Godey's Lady's Book, she used it to press for an official national Thanksgiving. She wrote editorials from 1847 until 1863, and sent letters to the President asking for his support. In 1863, she finally got her wish as President Lincoln made the holiday a national day of observance.

I hope that you will take time this Thanksgiving to share her story with your family and say a prayer of thanks for our wonderful country and those who protect our freedom.

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