Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving & a Woman of Influence

  I have a wonderful idea- I hope that you will think so as well!

The degree for which I am currently studying at the university is a combined degree of English, History, and Women's Studies with the theme of "Women's Influence throughout History Upon Culture."  With that subject so close to my heart, I would like to periodically post articles of Women Of InfluenceTake courage dear woman --your sphere of influence ripples out into the vast ocean.

I have a perfect subject for the post today- the day before Thanksgiving.

Dear Reader,

You may be surprised to learn that we Homemakers of this current generation, can thank the Victorian mothers for the holiday of Thanksgiving.  If it has not been for the influence of one tenacious lady with ideals of steel, we may not have been sitting around the table enjoying our Thanksgiving meal this Thursday.

Our Puritan brothers and sisters -the iconic symbols of the history of Thanksgiving- censured feasting and merriment.  Their religious idea of seeking divine deliverance from trying predicaments was to seek the Lord through prayer and fasting.  After having had their prayers answered, a day of Thanksgiving occurred with the observing of religious services.  The holiday celebrated as we know it today took its form some two hundred years later.

However, in 1789, America's first national Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by President George Washington.  This observance was set apart to acknowledge the favor of the Almighty upon the newly formed country. The actual day, though, for which Thanksgiving was to be observed was a haphazard placement on the calendar, set as each of the state's governors reckoned it.  The date of Thanksgiving was to continue without national unity for seventy five more years.
This confusion drove Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, then editor of the Victorian Godey's Lady's Book to devote three decades of her life to promote a national declaration of a one-day holiday to be observed as Thanksgiving.  She tirelessly wrote to every state governor and ten presidents.  (Talk about a woman with a mission!)  Her plea fell on the deaf ears of male politicians.  At last she realized her efficacious position as editor of America's most influential nineteenth-century women's periodicals.  Mrs. Hale appealed to the women, wives, and homemakers of America.  It is worth to note her appeal.

She wrote over one hundred and fifty years ago:

"I have thus endeavored to lay before my readers one of the strongest wishes of my heart, convinced that the general estimate of feminine character throughout the United States will be far from finding it an objection that this idea of American Union Thanksgiving was suggested by a woman.  The enjoyments are social, the feastings are domestic; therefore this annual festival is really the exponent of family happiness and household piety, which women should always seek to cultivate in their hearts and in their homes.  God gave to man authority, to woman influence: she inspires and persuades; he convinces and compels.  It has always been my aim to use my influence in this womanly ways."

Amen, Mrs. Hale!  And thank you for your tenacity; we all enjoy of your endeavors.

Mrs. Hale expounded on her idea featuring in the periodical elaborate menus of Victorian interpretations of Pilgrim food fare- roast turkey, giblet gravy, creamed baby onions, and cranberry sauce.  She wrote spiritual stories of mercy and redemption which compel our hearts to give thanks.  She advocated, "Let Thanksgiving, our American holiday...awaken  in American hearts the love of home and of country, of thankfulness to God and peace between brethren."

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first national proclamation that the observance of Thanksgiving should be the last Thursday in November which we still enjoy today.


I am thankful for the influence of women.
 
Have the most blessed of Thanksgiving days!

Sources: http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/hale1.html
http://www.misconceptionjunction.com/index.php/2010/11/the-pilgrims-did-not-celebrate-the-first-thanksgiving-in-america/

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2 comments:

Joanne said...

Hi my dear friend!
What a beautiful post. Wishing you and your family a most blessed Thanksgiving!

J.le said...

I love women who'd left a legacy behind because it shows me the importance of motherhood and homemaking. No one taught me about staying home with my child. I learned it on my own through other women in my life.

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