Meet the mother of Thanksgiving, a daughter of New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Sarah Josepha Hale, the mother of Thanksgiving. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

By Stacy Milbouer

November 17, 2023

What are we thankful for in New Hampshire? Well, to start, for our native daughter, Sarah Josepha Hale, for helping make Thanksgiving an official holiday.

Hale, who was born in Newport, New Hampshire in 1788, was a force of nature. Not only was she an advocate for women’s education—helping to create Vassar College—but she also raised funds to build Boston’s Bunker Hill Monument and save George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Hale was a prolific journalist and served as publisher of “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” the most popular American women’s magazine in the mid-1800s. And she wrote the poem, “Mary’s (had a little) Lamb.”

It was, however, her work as a publisher and her relentless nature that convinced President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 (the middle of the Civil War), to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

Meet the mother of Thanksgiving, a daughter of New Hampshire

Auguste Edouart created this silhouette of New Hampshire’s Sarah Josepha Hale in 1842, 21 years before she helped make Thanksgiving a national holiday. (Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery)

For 15 years, the widowed mother of five children used her magazine to advocate for Thanksgiving, and she even petitioned Congress about it. Lincoln was the last president Hale contacted. Before that, she had appealed to Zachery Taylor, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, and New Hampshire’s own Franklin Pierce to gain national recognition of the holiday.

But it was her 1863 letter to Lincoln, written when she was 74 years old, that implored him to make “our annual Thanksgiving a National and fixed Union Festival,” that finally made all the difference, according to Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Up until this time, states determined when the holiday would be celebrated and some states didn’t recognize it at all.

Hale retired from “Godey’s Lady’s Book in December 1877 at the age of 88. She died two years later in Philadelphia.

READ MORE: Live Free and Nosh: Discover 5 food-related New Hampshire inventions


  • Stacy Milbouer

    Stacy Milbouer is an award-winning journalist and has covered New Hampshire for many publications including the Boston Globe, New Hampshire Magazine, and the Nashua Telegraph.



VIDEO: What’s Your IVF Story?

VIDEO: What’s Your IVF Story?

In Vitro Fertilization has become a political talking point—but there’s more to the story. We want to give everyday Granite Staters who have IVF on...

Local News

Related Stories
Share This