Sarah Josepha Hale

We had a follow-up workshop for the OpEd Project at the College of Charleston last week, and it occurred to me during that workshop that I should write an op-ed about Sarah Josepha Hale being largely responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday.  I'm not the only person who knows about this, but it doesn't seem to get a lot of attention on Thanksgiving anywhere but at Baxter Sez.  Wouldn't it be cool if the New York Times or Washington Post had a piece about this forgotten woman?

However, things have been busy, so I didn't pull it together to write an op-ed.  Maybe next year.  For 2011, Hale's going to be on the blog rather than in a newspaper.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) is one of the 19th c. women I studied back in the day, when I studied 19th c. women. 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 tofurkey, 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.


Charlie Shipley said...

at this point, I know to look forward to your blogging on this subject every single year. thanks for the continual reminder, and I hope you had/are having a wonderful holiday. xoxo, Charlie

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