Wonder Women: Sarah Josepha Hale

A renowned 19th-century writer and editor, Sarah Josepha Hale pushed for girls’ education reform and the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She was inspired at a very early age to “promote the reputation of my own sex, and do something for my own country.” Throughout her life she advocated education, exercise, property rights and sensible fashion for women.

Born in Newport, New Hampshire in 1788, she went on to work in publishing after the death of her husband in 1822. Best known for writing the classic children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” she was a prominent novelist and a magazine editor. Sarah helmed the first American magazine for women, Godey’s Lady’s Book, accepting only original material and soliciting work from female contributors. She was also an ardent supporter of girls receiving an education.

Sarah became known as the Mother of Thanksgiving thanks to her push to make the celebration a national holiday. During the Civil War, Hale wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward in 1863, calling upon the leaders to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. The president conceded, starting the tradition of Thanksgiving Day, as we know it.