From 1827 until 1836, Hale served as editor of Ladies' Magazine in Boston. Her collection Poems for Our Children, which includes the now-famous "Mary Had a Little Lamb", was published in 1830, though its original title was "Mary's Lamb". The poem was intentionally written for children, an audience for which many women poets of this period were writing. In 1837 she began working as editor of Godey's Lady's Book in Philadelphia. She remained editor at Godey's for forty years, retiring almost at the age of ninety in 1877. During this time, she became one of the most important and influential arbiters of American taste. She also edited several issues of the annual gift book The Opal.
In its day, Godey's, with no significant competitors, had an influence unimaginable for any single publication today. The magazine is credited with an ability to influence fashions not only for women's clothes, but also in domestic architecture. Godey's published house plans that were copied by home builders nationwide. Perhaps more significantly, Mrs. Hale was a strong advocate for a number of causes. Her championship of education for women began with her editorship of the Ladies' Magazine and continued until she retired. For example, her influence, which included no fewer than seventeen articles and editorials devoted to the subject, is credited with helping make the founding of Vassar College acceptable to a public unaccustomed to the idea of women's education She opened the pages of the magazine to Catherine Beecher, Emma Willard and other early advocates of education for women.
Hale was also a strong advocate of the American nation and union. In the 1820's and 30's, a time when other American Magazines merely compiled and reprinted articles form British periodicals, Hale was among the leaders of a group of American editors who insisted on publishing American writers. In practical terms, this meant that she sometimes personally wrote half of the material published in the Ladies' Magazine. In later years, it meant that she particularly liked to publish fiction with American themes, the frontier, Thanksgiving, and historical fiction set during the American Revolution. Hale adamantly opposed slavery, but she was equally devoted to the Union. She campaigned in her pages for a unified American culture and nation, frequently running stories in which southerners and northerners fought together against the British, or in which a southerner and a northerner fell in love and married.
Hale died at her home, 1413 Locust Street in Philadelphia, on April 30, 1879. She is buried in a simple grave in the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Hale is credited as the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States; it had previously been celebrated only in New England. In support of the proposed national holiday, she wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States -- to Zachary Taylor, to Millard Filmore, to Franklin Pierce, to James Buchanan and to Abraham Lincoln. Her initial letters failed to persuade; but the letter she wrote to Lincoln did convince him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of thanksgiving in 1863.
Liberty Ship #1538 (1943-1972) was named in her honor.
A prestigious literary prize, the Sarah Josepha Hale Award is named for her.
Digging deeper.(sources of information about women writers and women who accomplished much in their lives)(Bibliography)
Mar 01, 2002; Books to Read Sarah Josepha Hale: A New England Pioneer, 1788-1879 by Sherbrooke Rogers (Grantham, New Hampshire: Tompson &...