Mother of Thanksgiving

While you're giving thanks this Thursday, send some Sarah Josepha Hale's way

Looking forward to time with loved ones, juicy turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving? Well, without New Hampshire’s own Sarah Josepha Hale, Thanksgiving as we know it might not exist. Hale, who lived in 18th-century Newport, NH, is responsible for the fact that Thanksgiving is a designated day for the country to celebrate its blessings. For 17 years she petitioned US presidents to make the day official, finally succeeding with Abraham Lincoln. As she put it: “Our Thanksgiving Day, becoming the focus of the private life and virtues of the people, should be hallowed and exalted and made the day of generous deeds and innocent enjoyments, of noble aspirations and heavenly hopes.”

While we’re certainly glad she finally convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving happen, she was also a writer, editor and advocate for women and the preservation of history. Here are a few other facts about her life:

  • Served as editor (or editress, as she liked to say) of Godey’s Lady’s Book for 40 years, not retiring until age 90. The reach of the magazine made her one of the most influential arbiters of taste in her day.
  • One of the first American woman novelists; one of the first to write a book about slavery. During her lifetime she published nearly 50 novels and books of poetry — one of her poems was “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
  • An early advocate of higher education for women, she helped found Vassar College.
  • Founded the Seaman’s Aid Society to assist the surviving families of Boston sailors who died at sea.
  • Worked to preserve George Washington’s Mount Vernon as a symbol of patriotism that both the North and South could support.
  • Raised $30,000 for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston.


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