Friday, November 29, 2013
Did you know that today's celebration of Thanksgiving is largely due to the efforts of one very persistent woman who dreamed of creating a national holiday that would bring Americans together on a unifying day of thanks? The little known heroine of Thanksgiving, writer Sarah Hale, who was incidentally also the author of the famous children's poem, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," was born in 1788. For forty years, Hale served as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, the most widely circulated US magazine in the pre-Civil War period. This role made Hale incredibly influential in everything from women's fashion to literature to architecture; however, the personal mission that drove her for 36 years was to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Hale believed that the US had too few national holidays that could be celebrated by all people. At the time, Thanksgiving was celebrated in certain states primarily in the North and was observed on different days in different locations. Hale sought to create a single holiday that would help unify the nation around a single day of gratitude for one's blessings.
During her years of advocacy, Hale wrote countless editorials in support of the holiday and lobbied governors, businesspeople and others to support her cause. Beginning in 1849, she also made an annual tradition of writing to the president about the holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Lincoln, who saw the benefit of such a unifying holiday during the stress of the U.S. Civil War, supported legislation to establish the new national holiday. With Lincoln's proclamation declaring a national day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863, Hale's 36-year quest for Thanksgiving was finally a success.