Sarah Josepha Hale

Tour curated by: Susanna G Magdziarz

Sarah Josepha Hale Memorial Park, located in Newport, New Hampshire, honors one of its famous citizens. This park commemorates the life and work of Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah Josepha Buell was born on October 24, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. Her parents were Captain Gordon and Martha Buell. Education was important to Martha Buell, and she took it upon herself to educate her children. Hall continued her mother’s work with education, even after she was married.

She married David Hale (a lawyer), on October 23, 1813. David Hale encouraged his wife in her educational pursuits: reading and writing. Together the couple had five children, but tragically David Halle died from pneumonia on September 25, 1822, leaving her with five young children. His friends helped Sarah open up a millinery shop to help the widow support herself and her family. She did not enjoy working in the shop, but she continued in her writing.

Hale's first novel, Northwood, was published in 1827. Reverend John Blake heard about the success of Sarah’s novel, and invited her to become the editor for Ladies Magazine in Boston. She accepted, moving to Boston with her youngest son. In addition to her editing role, she was involved in public commemoration projects. She believed that men like her father, who fought in the American Revolutionary War, should be honored. She used her role to encourage Ladies Magazine readers to contribute to the Bunker Hill Monument, which was finally completed in 1843.

During her time in Boston, Hale also published a collection of poems, which included Mary’s Lamb (now Mary Had a Little Lamb). Her poem was set to music in 1831, by Lowell Mason. As a young widow, she also served as an advocate for women. She founded the Seamen’s Aid Society, to help improve the lives of sailors' wives and daughters.

Another magazine editor, Louis Godey saw the success of the Ladies Magazine, and wanted to buy it and combine it with his magazine. Reverend Blake reluctantly agreed to sell. Hale became the editor for the Godey’s Lady Book. In her new role, she continued to educate women. Also, as editor, Sarah was able to pursue one of her lifelong passions of having Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote

“The Fourth of July is the exponent of independence and civil freedom. Thanksgiving Day is the national pledge of Christian faith in God, acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings. These two festivals should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as inseparable from American life.”

Hale wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, to make the last Thursday in November, a national day of Thanksgiving. President Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, granting her wish. Hale did not live to see Thanksgiving become an official holiday in November 1941.

As Hale grew older, her influence declined. Louis Godey decided to end the publication of Lady’s Book, and Hale wrote her last editorial on December 31, 1877. She died on April 30, 1879, about two years after the magazine folded

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