10 Ways The History Of Thanksgiving Is Nothing Like You Imagined

5. We Wouldn’t Have Thanksgiving Without ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’

Photo credit: James Reid Lambdin

Thanksgiving would never have become a federal holiday if it wasn’t for one woman: Sarah Josepha Hale. Or, as she’s better known, the woman who wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

Hale did more than just write a children’s song—she also waged an absurdly long and hard-fought battle to make Thanksgiving into a major US holiday. Thanksgiving, Hale believed, had a “deep moral influence” that taught families the value of coming together, or as she called it, “in-gathering.”[6]And she wouldn’t rest until every family in America was doing it.

Her first novel, Northwood, had a chapter-long description of Thanksgiving and how great it is, worked in just to push her favorite holiday on the public. After it came out, she founded her own magazine for women and filled it with articles on why everyone should celebrate Thanksgiving. And in her spare time, she wrote letters to senators begging them to make it a federal holiday.

She dedicated more than 30 years of her life to making Thanksgiving a holiday—and it worked. Slowly, more and more people started celebrating it. By 1854, 30 states were observing Thanksgiving, mainly because of her.

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