Sarah Josepha Hale had this idea about a national day of Thanksgiving. She goaded Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan without success.
Her correspondence to Abraham Lincoln, however, struck a chord and got results.
On October 3, 1863, Lincoln urged his fellow citizens to observe the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
The Mother of Thanksgiving
By Rich Lowry / National Review
It was 150 years ago that Sarah Josepha Hale gave us Thanksgiving as we know it.
The influential editor was the best friend Thanksgiving ever had. We are accustomed, in a more jaded and secular age, to wars on various holidays; Hale waged a war for Thanksgiving. For years, she evangelized for nationalizing the holiday by designating the last Thursday of November for it to be celebrated annually across the country.
Besides plugging for Thanksgiving in her publication, Godey’s Lady’s Book, she wrote Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan about it before hitting pay dirt with Abraham Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln urged his fellow citizens to observe the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Hale had succeeded in her long-sought goal, but kept — as Peggy Baker notes in an essay about her as “the Godmother of Thanksgiving” — writing editorials about Thanksgiving for another dozen years. You might say that she was a bore and nag on the topic, if her cause hadn’t been so splendid and her understanding of Thanksgiving so clear-eyed, clairvoyant even.
Hale saw the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving as the twin festivals of the American people, “each connected with their history, and therefore of great importance in giving power and distinctness to their nationality,” as she put it in an 1852 editorial.
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