Sarah Hale was a women that is widely credited with being the individual most responsible for the establishment of a Thanksgiving holiday in America. Throughout early American history some leaders issued Thanksgiving proclamations but it was not consistently celebrated. Hale was a young widow with five children and a millinery shop. She was a writer, initially only when she could find time, and saw her books published. She eventually became editor of “Godey’s Lady’s Book”, the nation’s foremost women’s magazine. Hale was a devout Christian who injected religious issues into her editorials. Throughout her time as an editor, Hale wrote hundreds of letters to governors, ministers, newspaper editors, and every U.S. president with one request: that the last Thursday in November be set aside to “offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year.”
In 1846, she launched a crusade to establish Thanksgiving as a holiday. She wrote influential editorials about it and continued sending personal letters to politicians and by 1859 thirty governors had agreed to a common day of Thanksgiving. Sarah believed that a national Thanksgiving holiday could avert the coming Civil War with its renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution. However, it was not then adopted nationally and the war did come.
In 1863 she wrote President Lincoln “laying before you a subject of deep interest … the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a national and fixed union festival.” The beleaguered president finally agreed, and on October 3, 1863 established Thanksgiving as a national holiday for the last Thursday of November. Even in war, Lincoln said, we can count our blessings: “They are gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” The new national holiday was considered a unifying day after the stress of the Civil War. Hale enjoyed many Thanksgiving celebrations after its establishment. She died on April 30, 1879, at the age of 90.
3 thoughts on “Sarah Hale”
It is noteworthy that you uncovered this bit of history; another clear landmark in American history of theistic foundation. The account of a Pilgrim’s thanksgiving dinner with the Indians as told in school books, detracts from the efforts of Sarah Hale and Mr. Lincoln’s reference to the Most High God. Well done.
Ms. Hale sounds like quite an impressive woman, especially for her times.
I, a believer in Christ and his unmistakable miracles myself, would be quite willing to consistently say grace every day of every year if everyone on Earth—and not just a minority of the planet’s populace—had enough clean, safe drinking water and nutritional food to maintain a normal, healthy daily life. And I’d be pray-fully ‘thankful’ if every couple’s child would survive his or her serious illness rather than just a small portion of such sick children.
On the other hand, what makes so many of us believe that collective humanity should be able to enjoy the pleasures of free will, but cry out for and expect divine mercy and rescue when our free will ruins our figurative good day, i.e. that we should have our cake and eat it, too?
Pass me the holiday turkey, peas
and the delicious stuffing flanked
by buttered potatoes with gravy
since I’ve said grace with plenty ease
for the good food received I’ve thanked
my Maker who’s found me worthy.
It seems that unlike the many of those
in the unlucky Third World nation
I’ve been found by God deserving
to not have to endure the awful woes
and the stomach wrenching starvation
suffered by them with no dinner serving.
So hand me the succulent corn
the cranberry sauce, fresh baked bread
since for my grub I’ve praised the Lord
yet I need not hear about those born
whose meal I’ve been granted instead
as they receive naught of the grand hoard.
We are to give thanks in all circumstances according to I Thessalonians 5:16-18. Of course this applies to Christians who have the hope of eternal life and Christ living in them. Having that we can always be content in whatever circumstances we face per Philippians 4:12-13 including being hungry or otherwise in need. The plight of the poor does not affect our thankfulness for the abundance that God has provided but we need to make sure we give liberally to help the less fortunate as we are commanded to do and will be judged on. Paul gave thanks during times when he had an abundance as well as when he was needy. Otherwise, we can trust God that He is soveriegn over all and works all after the counsel of His will.