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“Mother of Thanksgiving”- Sarah J. Hale convinced Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday

Goran Blazeski

Sarah J. Hale, a writer and the editor of a popular women’s magazine, Godey’s Ladies Journal, was born on October 24th, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire.

Her parents Gordon Buell and Martha Whittlesay Buell believed in equal education for both genders, so Sarah was home-schooled by her mother.

Later, Sarah became a local schoolteacher and in 1813 she married a lawyer, David Hale. Together, Sarah and her husband formed a small literary club and soon she began writing.

After the death of her husband in 1822, Sarah turned to writing to support herself and her five children. Hale authored many books and hundreds of poems, including the best-known nursery rhyme in English, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)
Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

She was a very successful woman who didn’t go unnoticed. In 1836, Hale became the editor of Louis Godey’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s BookGodey’s Lady’s Book was one of the most influential magazines of the 19th century.

As early as 1827, Hale advocated a national celebration of Thanksgiving and in her first novel Northwood, she wrote: “We don’t have enough holidays. Thanksgiving, just as the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival and observed by our people.”

Since the beginning of the 1840’s, Sarah campaigned for over 20 years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Thanksgiving was celebrated only regionally when Hale began her crusade to make it a national holiday. During her campaign, she lobbied various congressmen and was a tireless letter-writer, writing letters to every governor or current President in the United States.

1863 letter from Hale to Lincoln discussing Thanksgiving
1863 letter from Hale to Lincoln discussing Thanksgiving

Sarah Hale had written to five Presidents about the establishment of Thanksgiving and finally managed to convince President Abraham Lincoln that Thanksgiving would help to unify the country once the Civil War ended.

On October 3rd, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation and finally, on November 26th, 1863, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday for the first time.

Apparently, her mission wasn’t completed and Sarah started promoting different ways to celebrate the holiday. She wrote numerous editorials in her magazine, suggesting recipes appropriate for the holiday.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.
An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Many of those recipes became traditional thanks to her. Among them is the tradition of a turkey dinner and pumpkin pie.

Here is another fun read from us: Despite being an American icon, Apple Pie originated in Europe

No one had been as influential in establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday as Sarah Hale.

She retired from her editorial duties in 1877, at age 89.

Sarah Hal died in her home in Philadelphia on April 30th, 1879.

In addition, here is a video about brief history of Thanksgiving

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News