How The Author Of Mary Had A Little Lamb Turned Thanksgiving Into A National Holiday

Thanksgiving has accumulated a ton of controversy surrounding its origins. According to National Geographic, the feast of togetherness celebrated between pilgrims and the indigenous population of 1621 wasn't the first — another colony in Virginia started celebrating an annual Thanksgiving celebration in 1619, while Spanish colonists and the Florida Seloy tribe enjoyed a feast back in 1565 that featured pork and beans, as well as an observed Mass, per Insider. As America grew into a nation, its citizens wanted to have a unique holiday to honor its victory over the English, History Channel notes.

The idea of Thanksgiving as a celebration only grew stronger in the late 1700s into the 1800s, when everyone from President George Washington to both Union and Confederate armies wanted a day to give thanks. (Washington, in 1789, for the outcome of the Revolutionary War and thus the Constitution, and the Civil War armies for various victories.)

While this holiday has always popped up over the course of American history, one president and one famous author had a hand in making it stick.

The author of Mary Had a Little Lamb was a dedicated advocate for Thanksgiving

According to, Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer, activist, and author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to establish the holiday as an annual, official event. 

In the 1800s, Hale celebrated the holiday for years in New England, even publishing an 1827 novel that featured a whole chapter dedicated to the celebration. Three years later, Hale went on to found "American Ladies Magazine" as a platform for women's rights, and eventually joined "Godey's Lady Book" as an editor. In this position, she published recipes for what we all now know as Thanksgiving staples: turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, according to the Washington Post. Per, Hale also lobbied lawmakers to recognize Thanksgiving as an official holiday and wrote several editorials on the subject. By 1854, Hale had seen some great success — 30 U.S. states and territories recognized the celebration. The writer hoped this holiday could unify a country splitting at the seams.

But Thanksgiving didn't officially enter calendars until after Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address in 1863. Following the speech, Hale wrote to the president once again advocating for the creation of the red-letter day. Lincoln agreed, making Thanksgiving a national holiday, cementing Sarah Josepha Hale as a key figure responsible for making sure the holiday took hold. 

Next time you have to give thanks this holiday season, think of Hale and enjoy the holiday she fought tirelessly to establish.