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Thanksgiving Day is Officially 150 Years Old – Thank the Leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale

Have you heard of the leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale? Actually, have you even heard of Sarah before? If you are like me, you might have known about her, but couldn’t remember her name. And, until recently, I wasn’t aware of her many achievements

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Have you heard of the leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale? Actually, have you even heard of Sarah before? If you are like me, you might have known about her, but couldn’t remember her name. And, until recently, I wasn’t aware of her many achievements.

Short Biography. Sarah Hale, who was born and raised in Newport, New Hampshire, lived from 1788 to 1879. After her husband died and left her poor and alone with five children, Hale launched a writing career. She first wrote and published children’s poetry. Later she wrote and published Northwood: Life North and South, which made her one of America’s first women novelists.

Since the Northwood book addressed slavery, it got the attention of many influential people and she was recruited to be the editor of the Boston-based Ladies Magazine. It was while she was in this role that she wrote and published Mary Had a Little Lamb. In 1837 and for the next 40 years she was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, which was the most widely circulated and popular women’s periodical in America during that time.

Leadership Impact

As one of the most influential women of the mid-1800s, Hale had a huge impact on the advancement of women’s secondary education and employment. Among Hale’s successes were:

  1. Helping to found Vassar College;
  2. Producing no fewer than 17 articles and editorials devoted to the subject of women’s education;
  3. Receiving an award in 1860 from the Baltimore Female College “for distinguished services in the cause of female education”; and
  4. Creating a section in her magazine headed “Employment for Women” beginning in 1852 discussing women’s attempts to enter the workforce.

Hale also led the raising of monies for the Bunker Hill Monument and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

But it was because of the power of her personal pen that we will always be grateful – and that leads us to the rest of the story.

Thanksgiving – Our Third Federal Holiday

Until 1863 there were only two federal holidays – Independence Day and President Washington’s birthday. Our nation had loosely celebrated Thanksgiving with every state and region celebrating it differently. But Sarah Josepha Hale persistently pushed five presidents for a federal Thanksgiving holiday from Zachary Taylor in 1850 to Abraham Lincoln. Finally, 150 years ago this year, Abraham Lincoln received a letter from Hale that convinced him to support legislation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday unifying the country during the stress of the American Civil War.

So, as you pause and give thanks this Thanksgiving remember the leadership of Sarah Hale, who knew the importance of reflection and grace. Happy Thanksgiving!

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