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  • Writer's pictureLiz Bowers

Sarah Josepha Hale, The Mother of Thanksgiving

Drawing a Divided Nation Together Through Faith, Gratitude, and Family.

We often think of the origins of Thanksgiving being the Pilgrims’ feast with the Wampanoag tribe. Their help provided a successful harvest for the colony who otherwise would not have survived their second winter in the new world. However, it was not until the height of the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln declared an official national Thanksgiving holiday for the last Thursday in November. This declaration was due in large part to American Author and Lady’s magazine Editor, Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah Josepha Hale, born October 24, 1788, was the first female editor of a magazine. Her literary career saved her from destitution after her husband died, leaving her and five children to fend for themselves. She is perhaps most recognized today for her poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Arguably however, her greatest accomplishment was the institution of the national Thanksgiving holiday. For nearly thirty years, Hale wrote thousands of letters to politicians and presidents as well as many editorials to her impressive circulation of around 150,000 prior to the Civil War making the argument for a national day of Thanksgiving. She believed that such a holiday would help better bind the nation together as one whether you lived in the North or the South. In a time of such great division, Hale believed that remembering gratitude to God for family, friends, and home would bring healing political unity never could.

“Plymouth Rock would become the cradle of the American people, not just New Englanders. The Pilgrims would be scrubbed clean of their idiosyncrasies and regionalisms and become embodiments of shared American values: courage, fortitude, faith, good will, and charity (York, 2017).”

America is unique in that our people don’t all share the same ethnicity, culture, religion, or often even language. This makes having a shared history and set of values even more important.

Today we are facing a similarly fraying union as in the days of the Civil War, our country doesn’t value Thanksgiving to God as it once did and families are increasingly divided. The holiday itself is under attack for “whitewashing” the role of the Native Americans in our nation’s history. Indeed there seems to be less and less that we can point to, to understand what makes America American.

How do you think a shared understanding of our nation’s history would reshape culture today? Do you think that Americans, in general, have lost the value of religious freedom? Why, or Why do you not, celebrate Thanksgiving?


*All opinions expressed by WYO Conservative guests are theirs alone and may not represent the views of WYO Conservative’s Founder and Owner, Donna K. Rice, or any WYO Conservative affiliates.


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