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Illustration from book published by Sarah Josepha Hale

An illustration from Sarah Josepha Hale’s publication Godey’s Ladies Book shows a woman standing up to a male assailant, a revolutionary image in the day during the 19th century. Image: Hathi Trust Digital Library

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: The history of Thanksgiving Day in the United States is most often attributed to President Abraham Lincoln who made the Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day on October 3, 1863 saying that the day should  be set aside to give thanks in the enjoyment of peace after the civil war, but it is a woman who made Thanksgiving Day the holiday that is celebrated nationwide in the U.S. today.

“You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution,” said 74-year-old magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale.

President Lincoln was not the first U.S. president Hale had asked to set aside an annual day for national thanks. She tried to get 3 other presidents before Lincoln to go with the idea.

Born Sarah Buell in 1778, Hale’s accomplishments as an editor and author brought her acclaim in her day. She was also the first person to promote the array of food that many Americans choose today for their Thanksgiving meal; a meal that appeared first in Hale’s book “Northwood: A Tale of New England.”

During her long life to the age of 91, Hale was known for standing up for the rights and equality of women. Even the song she authored “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was a metonym for a woman’s ability to own her own property and land.

Surprisingly Hale as a widow and a mother of 5 children was not a supporter of women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. Perhaps politics in the early 1900s with a popular selling of her books and later her magazines to high number of men directed her decision. She decided instead to focus strongly on literacy and education for women and girls.

Later Hale worked to support the bid for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell the first woman in the United States to become a medical doctor.

“We do not believe in the mental inequality of the sexes, we believe that the man and the woman have each a work to do, for which they are specially qualified, and in which they are called to excel,” said Hale in 1856.

With a desire to set the tone in America for topics that were considered important at the age of 44 Hale founded American Ladies Magazine. Later she would become the editor-in-chief for Godey‟s Ladies Book, the most widely read U.S. magazine by either sex during the 19th century.

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