Over her 40-year career editing Godey's The Lady's Book
and Magazine during the 1800s, Sarah Josepha (Buell) Hale was
consistent in encouraging girls and women to pursue higher education,
in providing avenues and examples for self-improvement, in providing a
literary outlet for women, in offering hand arts patterns and advice
on keeping a home, and in pushing for a national American Thanksgiving
Day. Her ideal Thanksgiving was much like her experience growing up on
a Newport, New Hampshire, farm at harvest time, when the air was
crisp, the autumn colors were giving over to ice and snow, and wild
turkeys began roaming the open fields.
Some of the states proclaimed such a day but the response
was erratic. Sarah persisted. Finally, during the Civil War, she had
an audience with President Abraham Lincoln and he proclaimed a
National Thanksgiving Day for a single year.
Sarah would continue to work into her 80s; but it would
be some 20 years after her death before Thanksgiving Day officially
would be celebrated across America on the same day every year -- a day
when families and/or communities might come together and share a meal
that has been defined by the harvest season.
The distractions of today -- football games, distance and
travel challenges, a paucity of kitchen time, anti-Pilgrim protests,
holiday shopping -- have not yet completely quelled (methinks) Sarah's
key idea that people ought now and then stop what they are doing
separately and come together.
If you are with family and friends feasting this
Thanksgiving around a laden, decorated, aromatic table you are living
Sarah Hale's dream (and you better be there to help with the dishes,
too). Before you sit down, consider inviting a new face or two,
someone without family. Also, bring non-perishable foods to load into
a vehicle for delivery to a community food pantry.
It's been about 400 years since folks with courage, and
not much else, began coming to these shores from Europe; and we still
have a lot to learn from their mistakes, starting with diplomacy
toward our neighbors, working together for the good of all, being
open-minded, and sharing what we are fortunate in having.
Perhaps the gift of Thanksgiving is a helping of
humility. With a little of Sarah's persistence, maybe we will still
remember that lesson after our well-meaning walks around the block and
Harvest well, celebrate well,
-- Lucy, Brad, and Jacquie at Hedgehog's Whimsey Books
in Newport, New Hampshire