AN AMAZING FACT: Thanksgiving Day might not be celebrated in the United States today were it not for a remarkable woman named Sarah Josepha Hale (1788 -1879). It is well known that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by the Pilgrim fathers in 1621 to give thanks for their bountiful harvest in the New World. In 1789, President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation to commemorate the first Pilgrim celebration. But Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, discontinued it. After this, Thanksgiving was observed by some individual states on whatever date suited their fancy.
Then in 1828, Mrs. Hale, a patient, persistent 34-year-old widow and mother of four, began campaigning for the restoration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For years she wrote letters and sought appointments with national leaders, from five different presidents on down. Time after time she was politely rebuffed, sometimes being told it was “impractical” and “impossible,” and sometimes being chased off and scolded and told, “This is none of your business!”
But Sarah was relentless. Finally in 1863, President Lincoln listened seriously to her plea that North and South “lay aside enmities and strife on (Thanksgiving) Day.” He proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be the official “national Thanksgiving Day.” This day was finally ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1941.
What many people do not know is that Mrs. Sarah Hale was the first woman magazine editor in the U.S., and the first person to use the word “lingerie” to describe undergarments. Sarah also helped start the first college for girls in the U.S., was the first to suggest public playgrounds, and also started the first day nursery for working mothers. But Sarah Hale is probably best remembered as author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
The Bible encourages us to have a spirit of thanks in our hearts. Daniel thanked God for insight to understand Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand” (Daniel 2:23). Whether it is for God’s protection, the bountiful harvest of our fields, the blessings of family, or the guidance of the Spirit, giving thanks is a habit we should express all year long.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalms 100:4