In 1822, at the age of 34, Sarah Josepha Hale became a widow and began writing to support her five children because that is what she did best. During her career she wrote one of the country’s most popular poems…”Mary Had a Little Lamb,” authored several books and became editor of Ladies’ Magazine, the first publication edited by a woman.
She used her platform to get married women property rights, helped all females receive better wages and engaged in a lifelong crusade to make Thanksgiving Day a National Holiday.
For 35 years on the last Thursday of November, she wrote editorials about the importance of bringing the entire nation together to celebrate a day of thanksgiving. She even wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States. Her first four letters to Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan failed. However, Sarah did not give up her fight. After each failure, she changed her approach. During the height of the Civil War, her fifth letter to Abraham Lincoln emphasized even more strongly the unifying role that Thanksgiving could play within the divided nation. Five days after receiving her letter in 1863, President Lincoln wrote the proclamation making Thanksgiving a National Holiday.
Sarah didn’t stop with that success. She continued her crusade to have Thanksgiving Day proclaimed not by the President, which had to be repeated each year, but by an act of Congress. She stated her goal was to make the last Thursday in November “a perpetual holiday, wherein the whole nation may unite in praise to Almighty God for his bounty and love, in rejoicing over the blessings of the year, in the union of families, and in acts of charity and kindness to the poor.”
Sarah continued to write Thanksgiving editorials until she retired in 1877 at the age of 89. Sarah Josepha Hale died at the age of 91.
On November 26, 1941, 62 years after her death, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill establishing that Thanksgiving would occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the bill into law.
Tomorrow, in addition to giving thanks for all the blessings in your life, take a moment to tell a Thanksgiving story about people like Sarah who have dedicated their lives to making America a better place to live.
I think it’s also worth taking some time to help your family realize there is more to having a HAPPY Thanksgiving than being grateful. Gratitude is an essential component of happiness and I’ve written about it the last two years (see the links below). However, it’s just not enough by itself. To be authentically happy requires using your strengths to achieve a goal that contributes to you being excellent at something positive, making meaningful connections with other people or contributing to a worthy cause. Happiness and positive action are inseparable.
Your family members don’t have to have a dream like Sarah’s to be happy, but they do need a dream that will help them excel at what they do best. If you help them build a new dream this Thursday, you’ll really have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Lead The Positive Way Today!