Sarah Josepha Hale Memorial Park, located in Newport, New Hampshire, honors one of its famous citizens. This park commemorates the life and work of Sarah Josepha Hale.
Sarah Josepha Buell was born on October 24,1788; in Newport, New Hampshire. Her parents were Captain Gordon and Martha Buell. Education was important to Martha Buell, and she took it upon herself to educate her children. Sarah continued her mother’s work with education, even after she was married. Sarah married David Hale (a lawyer), on October 23, 1813. David encouraged Sarah in her educational pursuits: reading and writing. This was unusual for this time period, especially since Sarah was married. Together David and Sarah had five children, but tragically David died too young. David died from pneumonia on September 25,1822; leaving Sarah with five young children. David’s friends helped Sarah and her children to be financially secure, by opening up a millinery shop. Sarah did not enjoy working in the shop, but she continued in her writing.
She had her first novel published in 1827, it was called Northwood. This novel was the first book to discuss slavery. Reverend John Blake heard about the success of Sarah’s novel, and wanted her to edit the Ladies Magazine in Boston. Sarah decided to become the editor for the magazine, wanting to educate women. Sarah moved to Boston with her youngest son. Sarah was busy when she lived in Boston. She used her passion as an editor, to encourage patriotism. She believed men like her father (who fought in the American Revolutionary War) should be honored and remembered. Sarah inspired her readers to contribute to the Bunker Hill Monument. This monument took a long time to complete, finally being erected in 1843.
Also, when she was in Boston, Sarah had a collection of poems published, which included Mary’s Lamb (today known as Mary Had a Little Lamb). She includes a moral lesson in her poems, but in Mary Had a Little Lamb, the moral lesson is not commonly used today. The last verse goes like this:
“‘And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are only kind.’”(3)
This poem was set to music in 1831, by Lowell Mason. While living in Boston, Sarah was not just the editor for the Ladies Magazine, she was also an advocate for women. Sarah formed the Seamen’s Aid Society, to help improve the lives of seamen’s wives and daughters; education and work.
Another magazine editor, Louis Godey saw the success of the Ladies magazine, wishing to combine the two magazines. Reverend Blake did not want to sell, but he finally agreed. Sarah became the editor for the Godey’s Lady Book. In her new role, Sarah continued to educate women.
Also, as editor, Sarah was able to pursue one of her lifelong passions of having Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote “The Fourth of July is the exponent of independence and civil freedom. Thanksgiving Day is the national pledge of Christian faith in God, acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings. These two festivals should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as inseparable from American life.”(1) She wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, to make the last Thursday in November, a national day of Thanksgiving. President Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, granting Sarah’s wish. Sarah did not live to see Thanksgiving made official by congress. Congress made Thanksgiving an official holiday November 1941, signed in to law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
As Sarah grew older, her influence was decreasing. Louis Godey decided to end the publication of Lady’s Book, and Sarah wrote her last editorial on December 31, 1877. Sarah died on April 30, 1879, about two years after the Lady’s Book ended. Sarah was a very influential person, helping to improve the lives of women and girls through education and work. She was also patriotic, by helping to establish the Bunker Hill Monument, and crusading for Thanksgiving. Sarah was an accomplished writer and editor, using her talents she helped create a better society.