Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

The Mother of Thanksgiving

The scent of a turkey roasting in the oven.  Mashed potatoes covered with home-made gravy that melts in your mouth. Cinnamon-sweetened pumpkin pie served with plenty of fresh whipped cream. These are only a few of the delights offered by one of our country’s most decadent culinary events.

Thanksgiving is a mere eight days away and most of us are scurrying to stock up on the supplies necessary to create America’s annual traditional feast.

While the idea may have originated from the pilgrims – even though their meal looked far different from what is served today – it took the efforts of a woman to formally establish the tradition.

Sarah Josepha Hale, Mother of Thanksgiving. (Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Known as the Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied for the creation of a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. Sarah, an accomplished and prolific writer, became editor of the most influential journal of its day, Godey’s Ladies Book, a position she held for forty years. Sarah wrote many editorials championing the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday before playing her most important card on September 28, 1862. With America in the midst of the horrors of the Civil War, she wrote a letter to President Lincoln asking him to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and “permanently an American custom and institution”. Lincoln must have agreed, for within a week, an official proclamation was issued setting the observance for the final Thursday in November to “help heal the wounds of the nation”.

In her spare time, (when she wasn’t busy establishing national holidays or editing), Sarah penned books, poems, and articles; she advocated on behalf of women’s education, encouraged the publication of American writers, campaigned for a unified American culture, and promoted the preservation of historical sites. Oh yes, and she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, too.

Arbiter of fashion, food, and literary delights, thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale. (Public Domain)

I must admit her efforts to make a better America have me feeling like a total slacker, so here’s a gentle reminder from me to you. While you’re gathering ingredients for the holiday meal, please consider picking up a few extra things for your local food pantry. A little can help a lot, and I feel sure Sarah Josepha Hale would nod in approval at your kindness.

Finally, and just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve posted a new recipe. Click on the Easy-Peasy Recipe tab for a simple and delicious way to prepare sweet potatoes that does NOT involve marshmallows or brown sugar. I think you’ll like it!

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  1. Pat, fascinating information about our history. I am passing this on to my girls.

  2. I agree with Linda. I did not know that there was a Mother of Thanksgiving. Isn’t it funny how there are so many interesting historical stories that we never knew–thanks to you and Sarah Angleton, we are all learning so much more. 🙂 LOL

    Thanks for the recipe–I will have to check it out–no marshmallows or brown sugar? Hard to believe.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Pat Wahler

      November 17, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Margo, digging around in history almost always results in finding a tidbit or treasure – as I’m sure you know from all the research you’ve done.

      Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. Pat–I make sweet potatoes similar to this. I use a spice blend called “Seasoning for Greens” (I get it at Soulard or the St. Charles Spice shop), along with chopped onion and cheese (the cheese is added at the end).

    I can’t stand marshmallow-y sweet potatoes, but I love them when they’re savory.

    • Pat Wahler

      November 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

      I agree, Sioux. The oniony-salty-slightly sweet taste is far preferable to sugar. Surprising for me since I usually love sugar. 🙂

  4. I’ve heard of the Godey’s Ladies Book before (it’s mentioned several times in the Little House books), but I didn’t realize Sarah Josepha Hale was the editor. That’s a really interesting piece of information. Thanks for sharing! I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

    • Pat Wahler

      November 21, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Angela! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  5. Quite the accomplished woman, thanks for sharing her story. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

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