The Woman behind Thanksgiving

Every year millions around the United States celebrate Thanksgiving on the third Thursday in November. Thanksgiving doesn’t just land at the end of November by chance. At this time in the mid-1800s Thanksgiving was celebrated throughout different times in the fall, depending on when the harvest season ended. Modern day Thanksgiving has a set date, and is all about things that make most holidays special; food, friends and family. We all know the story about the pilgrims and Indians, and what Thanksgiving was about originally. How did it become a national holiday though? Here’s a little background.

Although history gives credit to politicians, there is a little known story about a writer named Sarah Josepha Hale, and how she relentlessly lobbied to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday. Sarah Hale was a published writer and prominent editor of women’s magazines for most of her life, on top of being a widowed mother of five. Hale spent nearly seventeen years writing letters to U.S. Presidents persuading them that Thanksgiving should be a national holiday, as at the time only George Washington’s birthday and Independence day were celebrated. Hale finally got the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, and folklore suggests it was one of Sarah’s letters that led him to establish Thanksgiving as a federal holiday in 1863. This time frame was right in the middle of the Civil War, and Lincoln stated that the United States would “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving, to unify and attempt to heal the wounds of a nation.”

Leave a Reply