Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was widowed at age 34 and had the responsibility of rearing and supporting five children. She did this by pursuing her literary talents and became an author and editor. In the 1800's she became one of the most famous magazine editors of the time. For nearly fifty years she edited the Ladies' Magazine of Boston and Godey's Lady's Book of Philadelphia. Using her writing as her platform she worked diligently promoting humanitarian causes, women's rights, and child welfare. She advocated higher education and used her voice to promote the establishment of colleges for women.
As a prolific writer, Ms. Hale is known for writing everything from children's poetry to novels on anti-slavery and other social issues. Her major surviving work is probably one that you are well acquainted with. It's the poem called "Mary Had a Little Lamb". It first appeared in the Juvenile Miscellany in September of 1830.
Her other lasting contribution to American culture was her establishment of a national Thanksgiving Day. She worked for thirty years to promote this idea, writing editorial pleas in her magazines and writing letters to the Presidents of the United States for thirty years. In 1863 she won the support of President Abraham Lincoln and he issued a national Thanksgiving proclamation, establishing the last Thursday in November each year as "a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father". For the next seventy-five years, each president proclaimed this day of Thanksgiving. Then in 1941 Congress, in a joint resolution, provided "That the fourth Thursday of November in each year after the year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and it is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes".
As one who loves animals and promotes compassion for them, this post wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention that today the President of the United States carried out a presidential tradition that was established by other animal lovers. He officially pardoned a turkey, saving it from the axe of fate and a place at the Thanksgiving table to live out the rest of his life in a nearby zoo. This tradition was first observed by President Truman in 1947 and has been continued yearly ever since. In our household, all turkeys are pardoned! When the children were small we sometimes raised them from tiny poults. They were interesting pets who had the run of the yard (Brandon once had a run-in with an aggressive Tom Turkey who was tired of being used as a playmate). Our turkeys always had a pardon on Thanksgiving Day, as they benefited from living with our vegetarian family! Tomorrow, if I'm not too busy cooking, I'll post our family's traditional vegetarian menu.