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Mother of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day has a mother, a proper Victorian women, arguably one of most powerful magazine editors in the mid-1800s–Sarah Josepha Hale, a woman who was widowed and “left poor” shortly before the birth of her fifth child.  Of medium height with a high forehead, heart-shaped face, small hands and feet, Sarah Josepha Hale had a smile that, it was said, “broke slowly, ended in a flash.”  For forty years she ceaselessly campaigned for the establishment of a National Thanksgiving, at a time when Americans had only two national holidays to celebrate: Washington’s birthday in February and the Fourth of July. “These are patriotic and political,” she wrote, “Are not the sounds of war borne on the breezes of those festivals? . . . .Should not the women of America have one festival in whose rejoicings they can fully participate?” Her relentless efforts finally resulted in President Lincoln resuming a precedent established by Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison of issuing a Proclamation of Thanksgiving, “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”  In 1876, the centennial anniversary of the United States, Hale wrote: “It is a holiday especially worthy of our people. All its associations and all its influences are of the best kind. It unites families and friends. It awakens kindly and generous sentiments. It promotes peace and good-will among our mixed population . . .” 

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