Did you know that Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was born today in 1788? She was an American writer and editor. One of her most famous works is the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Hale was also the first female editor of a magazine. As an editor, she was able to influence public opinion on other issues such as slavery, education and work for women, and a unified American nation. For 17 years, Hale worked to turn Thanksgiving, which had only been celebrated in New England, into a national holiday. She also worked to preserve historical sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon home and plantation.
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As an editor of magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Ladies’ Magazine, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was able to influence the opinions of Americans across the nation.
As an editor, she worked to feature more work from American writers instead of just reprinting work from Britain. Some of the writers featured while Hale was an editor include Elizabeth F. Ellet, Eliza Cook, Frances Sargent Osgood, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Washington Irving, James Kirke Paulding, William Gilmore Simms, and Nathaniel Parker Willis.
Before Sarah Josepha Buell Hale’s work, Thanksgiving was mainly celebrated in New England. Celebrations and when the holiday was observed varied from state to state. For 17 years, Hale advocated for the creation of a national holiday. She wrote letters to 5 presidents including Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Before Thanksgiving the only national holidays were George Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day.
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale also worked to raise funds to complete a monument for the Battle of Bunker Hill. She asked readers to donate and also organize a very successful craft fair. The craft fair had more than just handmade goods such as baked goods, quilts, jewelry, baskets, and jams; the fair also included autographed letters from Revolutionary War figures such as Washington, Madison, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
A prestigious literary prize the Sarah Josepha Hale Award is named in her honor. Some recipients include Robert Frost, Elizabeth Yates, and Arthur Miller.
During her life, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale published more than 50 volumes of prose and poetry.
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