Sarah Josepha Hale
(1788 – 1879)
Sunday Oct 24th Mrs Davenport, Miss Alger & self
staid at home in the morning and I cooked
a dinner Martin Carr came home with
them at noon and was here to dine We all
went to meeting this afternoon Mrs D & Miss
Alger played and sang and we have had a pleasant evening
Evelina played hostess on this Sabbath Day, staying home from the morning church service to be with her female guests and to cook a dinner. Between services, the men came home for the meal, bringing Martin Carr with them. Martin, who was Oakes Angier’s age, was the son of Caleb Carr, a long-time employee of the shovel shop. Martin was a jeweler by trade; perhaps he knew Edward Davenport, a jeweler in Attleboro, who was staying with the Ameses.
The socializing continued in the evening with tea and entertainment. Both Celestine Davenport and Miss Alger “played and sang.” What fun to have music in the parlor. Perhaps Susie Ames was inspired by the pleasure that piano playing produced.
Evelina wouldn’t have known it, or acknowledged it particularly if she had, but today was the birthday of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the influential editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular periodical of the day for women. Her first editing job, which she took on as a young widow with five children, was for The Ladies Magazine in Boston. After Ladies merged with Lady’s, in 1836 – 1837, Mrs. Hale moved to Philadelphia and became the “editress,” – a term she preferred – of Godey’s for the next forty years. While there, she published the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, Washington Irving, Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher – among other authors whose writing has not held up as well through the decades.
Mrs. Hale did more than just read at a desk. While still living in Boston, she established the Seaman’s Aid Society to help the widows and orphans of men lost at sea. She raised a much-needed balance of funds for the completion of the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, the funding of which had stalled. Though many members of the stymied Monument Association assured Mrs. Hale that she couldn’t succeed, she raised tens of thousands of dollars from individual donors and from a week-long women’s craft fair that she organized at Quincy Market. The latter event alone – the first of its kind – raised more than $30,000 from the sale of domestic goods like homemade preserves, knitted scarves, hand-sewn aprons and caps, and specially donated items. She built the template for that kind of event.
Mrs. Hale also raised money for the maintenance of George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, which had fallen into disrepair. She championed the establishment of Vassar, the country’s first female liberal arts college. She promoted the advancement of education and employment for women, tirelessly. Most famous of all, she was able to persuade President Abraham Lincoln to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a pet project of hers that she had put forward to a line of presidents before him. Most disappointing of all, Sarah Hale never got on board the women’s suffrage movement. She believed that giving women the vote would lead them into politics, which was too disreputable and crafty a calling for the high moral stature of the true female mind.
There is much to be said about Sarah Josepha Hale. We must not forget that she was also an author. She wrote many of the articles in Godey’s, she penned novels, children’s books, household guides and poems. It was her pen that wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She was a phenomenal woman for her time.