What was Sarah Josepha Hale’s contribution to Thanksgiving?
A. Author of the first published cranberry sauce recipe
B. Inventor of the electric carving knife
C. Advertising executive who created the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line
D. Magazine editor who campaigned to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday
Sarah Josepha Hale was editor of the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book for 40 years, from 1837 to 1877, during which time she published numerous editorials extolling the virtues of a national day of Thanksgiving. Inspired by a sentimental account she read about the 1621 feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, Hale published recipes for turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie and invented colonial “traditions” out of whole cloth, earning her the nickname the “Mother of Thanksgiving.” Over the course of 36 years, the prolific writer (credited as a co-author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), she sent a flood of letters to governors, senators, presidents, and other politicians in pursuit of her quest. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln finally took Hale’s request to heart, and to “heal the wounds of the nation,” proclaimed the final Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Eagerly celebrated for 76 years, the holiday was unexpectedly moved up a week in 1939 by president Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an ill-conceived attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. After passionate public outrage, he compromised by legally fixing the date as the fourth Thursday in November (some years there are actually 5), when we have feasted ever since.