If I mention the name Sarah Hale, what comes to mind? I’m guessing not much as it was a name I was not familiar with until several years ago. When doing teacher workshops at this time of the year I always like to bring in some information beyond turkeys and feasting which is how I ran across Sarah Hale and the book by Laurie Halse Anderson, Thank You Sarah: the Woman who Saved Thanksgiving. The book relates how Sarah, a magazine editor and author, persuaded President Lincoln to transform Thanksgiving Day into a national holiday. As the story goes, she wrote thousands of letters asking politicians to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Hale often wrote editorials and articles about the holiday and she lobbied state and federal officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks on the last Thursday of November—a unifying measure, she believed that could help ease growing tensions and divisions between the northern and southern parts of the country.
When Zachary Taylor said no, she wrote to the next president, Millard Fillmore. When he said no, she wrote to Franklin Pierce, then James Buchanan and finally Abe Lincoln. In 1863, President Lincoln made it a national holiday, a day for all Americans to give thanks, together. Interestingly, it was celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November except during the presidency of FDR who moved it in 1939 to the third Thursday. This was in an effort to lengthen the holiday and boost shopping to help improve the economy due to the Great Depression. His experiment failed and it was moved back to the 4th Thursday in 1941.
As we continue the celebration that began long ago, my first thank you goes out to Sarah for trying to make the country more united. While we may not be together with all those we wish, we can be thankful to everyone and everything that has made an impact on our life. My thanks also go out to teachers, authors, farmers, and the many other professions that inspire us to be better people. It also goes to all who were heroes in helping the people in harm’s way in Las Vegas and those who continue to provide healing in the face of yet another sad moment. Happy Thanksgiving.
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