Give thanks to the woman who brought us Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in 1621.

The painting below is in the public domain and one of the first and only results our search came up with that shows the scene of intercultural exchange that legend says inspired the celebration.

Painted 300 years after the first pilgrims arrived in this part of the world, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris around 1912-1915, it is the artists’ interpretation of what may have happened during the famed peaceful encounter between English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe.

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Today, more than ever, we want to focus on unity and the promise of a better future. We want to give thanks to the liberties that govern the United States, but also the rights we’ve fought for since that first holiday feast, that make our nation unique.

For many Americans, it is the vision of Sarah Josepha Hale, who lobbied for Thanksgiving to be observed across the nation. Below is an excerpt of her first editorial on Thanksgiving, and is a much-needed reminder of what we all wish and work for:

“It is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart – the social and domestic ties. It calls together the dispersed members of the family circle, and brings plenty, joy and gladness to the dwellings of the poor and lowly.” (1837)

What does Thanksgiving mean to you and your family?

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) of New Hampshire was a poet, editor, and author who campaigned heavily for thirty-six years for Thanksgiving to be observed across the entire United States.

For over two centuries, each state decided whether or not they wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, and when they did, most states did so on different dates. In 1863, 16th President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving would become a national holiday, to be celebrated annually, on the last Thursday of November. This was in the midst of the Civil War, and it has been suggested that this was a political move to temporarily distract the public from the war.

Sarah Josepha Hale contacted five presidents before succeeding, and if you’ll notice, President Lincoln announced his decision a mere five days after receiving her letter! He made a second Thanksgiving proclamation a year later.

She also wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb”!

Pilgrim Hall Museum
Library of Congress

Text by Chanez Baali and Sarah Poyet.

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  • Jaylene

    August 4, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I´m very surprised about the history behind how thanksgiving was created but what caught my attention was she wrote mary had a little lamb. My mom used to sing me the song and it used to put me to sleep when I was a baby.

    1. The Glass Files

      August 4, 2020 at 6:15 pm

      There’s always so much more to History than we think.

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