Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November? Thanks, in part, to the efforts of Sarah Jospeha Hale. Widowed in 1822 with five children (the oldest was 9, the youngest was born two weeks after her husband’s death), Hale embarked on a literary career to support her family. She wrote a novel and a book of poetry before becoming the editor of the Ladies Magazine in 1828. That publication merged in 1837 with the Ladies Book and became Godey’s Ladies Book, one of the most widely read magazines of the 19th century. It was from her position as editor of Godey’s Ladies Book that Hale began her campaign to have the nation celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. For decades, Hale wrote a Thanksgiving editorial urging the creation of a national celebration of Thanksgiving and in 1863 she wrote to the President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln paid attention! He issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863 urging Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. Ever the tireless agitator, Hale then turned her energy to Congress. Beginning in 1871, Hale argued that Congress should designate a national Thanksgiving celebration. Hale didn’t live to see that dream realized, however. It wasn’t until 1941 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the bill designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
This year we are grateful for Dr. Osler and her informative post on the lovely and talented Mrs. Hale!