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Granite State Stories: Sarah Josepha Hale persuades Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving

  • Portrait of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879), engraving by W. G. Armstrong. Courtesy of the N.H. Historical Society


Friday, November 17, 2017

New Hampshire native Sarah Josepha Hale is known as the “mother of Thanksgiving.”

As the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale campaigned tirelessly beginning in the 1830s for an annual national observance of Thanksgiving at the end of November.

Although the classic Thanksgiving rituals of a church service, family feast, and social activities had been a fixture of New England life since the late 18th century, there had been no national proclamation of a November Thanksgiving since George Washington’s in 1789. Hale hoped that a fixed nationwide celebration would encourage unity and spread the values of family, charity, humility, and gratitude.

Finally in 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued an official presidential proclamation observing the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Each president after Lincoln followed this custom until 1941, when the U.S. Congress passed a law mandating a permanent Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.

N.H. Historical Society