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How Sarah Josepha Hale Became the 'Mother of Thanksgiving'

Throughout the early history the United States, Thanksgiving was a popular holiday, but a really disjointed one. A holiday set aside to feast and express gratitude would be proclaimed for a bountiful harvest, victory in battle, or even to celebrate the government. The growing number of states celebrated on different days, sometimes more than once a year. Thanksgiving was the favorite holiday of writer Sarah Josepha Hale, who fervently wished it would be a consistent celebration across the country.

For Hale, the holiday wasn’t simply about giving thanks to God; it was also about fostering national unity. The country had grown from 13 colonies to around 30 states by the mid-1800s, and Hale saw Thanksgiving as a way to collapse the physical distance between families.

“[Though] the members of the same family might be too far separated to meet around one festive board, they would have the gratification of knowing that all were enjoying the feast. From the St. Johns to the Rio Grande, from the Atlantic to the Pacific border, the telegraph of human happiness would move every heart to gladness simultaneously … ” Hale wrote in an 1851 editorial.

Those words seem especially apt for 2020, as we share the holiday on the same day, but not with far-flung family members. Read the story of how Hale got us all on the same page for Thanksgiving at Mental Floss. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: James Reid Lambdin)


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