11.23.2006

Sarah Josepha Hale


It's Thanksgiving once again, which means it's time for my annual homage to Sarah Josepha Hale. Normally only my immediate family gets to hear this, but I figured this year, I'd share it with the blog.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) is one of the very cool forgotten 19th c. women I studied back in the day, when I studied 19th c. women (I probably will study them again, but as you all know my heart is currently with zines). Hale is responsible for Thanksgiving being a national holiday. As editor of Godey's Lady's Book, hands down the most popular magazine of its time, she was incredibly influential nationally, and she used her influence to argue for things like equal education for women, high-quality American literature, and Thanksgiving.

The United States only had one national holiday at that time: July 4. A lot of people celebrated Thanksgiving, but there wasn't a set day for it, and it wasn't nationally recognized. She lobbied the Presidents for 25 years about this issue, and finally Lincoln complied in 1863. She'd been saying for years that an additional holiday would help bring the country together, and during the Civil War Lincoln saw the symbolic significance of this.

So as you enjoy your day off, eat your turkey or to-furkey, and think about the native people whose land the Puritans stole, raise a glass in honor of Sarah Josepha Hale, who should be a national celebrity on Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

claire said...

A glass will be raised -- I have been searching for this poem since college, when I first encountered it as a good thanksgiving message (ok, so only today did searching include....the internet..., so here it is): Men are made of what is made, The meat, the drink, the life, the corn, Laid up by them, in them reborn. And self-begotten cycles close About our way; indigenous art And simple spells make unafraid The haunted labyrinths of the heart

Edwin Muir, "the island"