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The woman's poem

The woman's poem is way better known than she is, although in her day she was a phenomenon.

The poem, later set to music, is the Thanksgiving classic known by its first line—"Over the river and through the wood —(yes, wood, i.e., a forest, is correct), although that is not the original title. The woman is Lydia Maria Francis Child, a forward-thinking, groundbreaking, influential novelist, journalist, editor, letter writer, and social reformer with a broad agenda that still resonates today.


Lydia Maria (pronounced Ma-RYE-a) Child's 12-stanza poem was published in 1844 in her Flowers for Children, Volume 2. She based the poem on her childhood memories of going to her grandfather's house across the Mystic River from her house to his in Medford, Massachusetts.

However, her original title reflects a boy's perspective—"The New-England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day." (Curious about her title, I wonder if she or her publisher thought that a boy would be more salable than a girl. I have certainly been told that girls/women do not sell.)

Much to my surprise when I located an original copy of the poem, Child's "boy" was

going to "grandfather's house," not his grandmother's house, which is what is commonly sung. Today there is a historic marker, "Grandfather's House" located in front of the house, an example of Greek Revival architecture. Here is a link to the Internet Archive and the original poem https://archive.org/details/flowersforchildr00chil/page/n214/mode/1up

There are many performances of "Over the river" on YouTube. Scroll through and you will find everything from versions for kids to an over-the top performance by the 360-member Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and an 85-member orchestra. Here is a link to that performance: : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLSHSVNvbto You willl also find versions with the word "Christmas" replacing the word "Thanksgiving." Here is a link to an eye-popping Christmas version by the group Pentatonix:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6LckCuIcYE

Musical performances rarely credit Lydia Maria Child. The many children's book with the poem typically do credit her.

I will post about Lydia Maria Child next week. Happy last day of November and onward to December.

Images: Lydia Maria Child and the last page from the original "The New-England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day" that appeared in my book Thanksgiving: The True Story along with all 12 verses.


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