What does Mary Had a Little Lamb have to do with Thanksgiving?

So what does the popular children’s rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, have to do with Thanksgiving Day? The answer is Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah_Hale_portraitSo who was Sarah? She was a teacher, a writer, an editor (though she preferred the term “editress”), and the person most responsible for persuading Abe Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving to be a nationally recognized holiday.

As a writer, she found overnight success with her novel, Northwood: Life North and South, published in 1827. As such, Hale was one of the first successful American female authors, and the first to write about slavery in a novel. With the popularity of her novel, Hale was tapped by Reverend John Blake to be the editor for his journal, Ladies’ Magazine, from 1828 to 1836. In 1830, she published a collection of poetry for children, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, originally titled “Mary’s Lamb”.

In 1937, the owner of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Louis Antoine Godey, wanted Hale for its editor so he bought the Ladies’ Magazine and merged it with his own. As Godey’s had no significant competitors, Hale exercised considerable influence as the arbiter of style, fashions, even architecture. She remained editor of Godey’s until she was nearly 90 years old.

Around 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale began advocating for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. At the time, Thanksgiving was celebrated primarily in New England, though states differed in when it was scheduled, and it was virtually unknown in the South. Hale petitioned five Presidents of the United States over 17 years before her pleas fell on Lincoln’s ears.

So in 1863, Lincoln supported legislation that made Thanksgiving a national holiday. It was considered a day of unification after the Civil War. And it was only the third national holiday to be recognized.

Thanks for joining me for this bit of historical fun. Now get back out there and eat some turkey! Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America. It is a day of eating too much, watching sporting events, and saying what we are thankful for. And since I overeat regularly without need for special day and I don’t really pay attention to sporting events, I will focus my attention on the third item.

I am thankful for my wife. She is better than I deserve or could ever ask for. Her work ethic is beyond reproach. Her smile brightens the room. And her sense of humor is perfectly suited to the sick things that make me laugh.

I am thankful for my daughters. They are pure delight and so worth the effort and the sleepless nights. I love being their dad almost as much as I love being my wife’s husband.

I am thankful for my job. Baker Book House is not only the best indie bookstore in the world, it is the best place to work in the world. For being a retail store, I have a standard schedule, good pay, and am surrounded by people whose company I honestly enjoy. Thank you Herman Baker for starting your wonderful store so many years ago!

I am thankful for my pastor. Pastor Nelson Koon helps the Bible come alive through his preaching and his lifestyle. Though this is his first church after Bible school, our pastor has maturity beyond his years and a deep understanding of the needs of his flock.

I am thankful for new opportunities that find me. In the last year, I started this blog, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book, I am getting back to review books, I have a mutually beneficial advertising arrangement with a pizza shop in town, I got to be part of the committee that made decisions for the building project at my bookstore, and on and on. So many cool things have happened and I feel honored to be part of them all.

And I am thankful for you, my reader. I know that sounds cheesy but having people read what I write validates this crazy dream of mine to be a writer. Thank you and have a Happy Thanksgiving today!

Innermost Secrets 9 – 15

I was thinking that this was going to be a Thursday post, but since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’ll do it a day early. That way, you have one more thing to be thankful for. If you have no idea why I’m starting at nine, you should probably start back at the beginning.

9th Innermost Secret:

  • I derive pleasure from demeaning the British (but only because I’m jealous).

The YMCA camp was part of a really cool program that hired English-speaking international staff for the summer. We had one girl from Australia, and a girl and some guys from England. Sometime before they got there, one of the English guys called the camp and I happened to pick up the phone. His Manchester accent was so thick, I had to tell him to call back because I had no idea what he was saying. By the end of the summer, I could understand him just fine, but I helped to watch him speaking. Over the phone I was at a complete loss.

10th Innermost Secret:

  • Jason is really my twin.

In an act of pure nepotism, I hired my former college suitemate, Jason. I’ve written about Jason before. He was the vice-president of the Valhalla Norwegian Society, and he and I shared some frightening similarities. People really did believe that we were related. And we had a lot of fun that summer. In addition to all of the normal fun of being at camp, Jason and I had a folk-rock comedy band in which we used bad British accents (see Innermost Secret #9) called The Electric Fandango. Jason is now a Latin teacher at a school nearby me. Maybe we should get the band back together.

11th Innermost Secret:

  • I like to wear pink undies (when I wear undies at all).

I feel no need to explain this secret.

12th Innermost Secret:

  • Jay Turpin is my father.

Jay was the camp’s executive director. He’s been mentioned before on the blog as well. I pranked him though he did not deserve it. Sorry Jay. Anyway, Jay is only like 10 years older than me, so if he were my dad, he would have had to get started at a pretty early age.

13th Innermost Secret:

  • Honey Mustard…

This is simply the title of one of the songs from The Electric Fandango (see Innermost Secret #10). The whole song is a declaration of love to Honey Mustard, God’s own condiment. The reason I wrote the song was because Honey Mustard was the only thing that enabled me to eat all of the processed chicken that showed up on the camp menu. Pretty much every other meal was some kind of processed chicken. But it was free processed chicken because I lived at camp, so I’m not going to complain too loudly.

14th Innermost Secret:

  • Sometimes I drink bleach.

This is stolen directly from a thing I saw David Letterman do one time. I only saw it once, but for some reason it really stuck with me. Letterman was going through his desk routine, playing the little games that he does when all of a sudden he reaches down and brings a jug of bleach to his lips, takes a deep drink and puts it down. No one says anything about it, so he does it again later. Finally, he says something like, “Isn’t anyone going to try to stop me? I’m drinking bleach for goodness sake.” I thought that was hilarious. I couldn’t tell you why now.

15th Innermost Secret:

  • I clean the bath house for fun and profit.

As the Visiting Groups Director, it was my responsibility to make sure that all of the facilities that my visiting groups used got cleaned up. I never wanted to be the type of boss who simply assigned the dirty tasks to my underlings, so I cleaned the bathhouse personally. And though it wasn’t always that much fun, I think it was a good way to help my staff feel appreciated. Plus, someone had to do it, and I was getting paid the most of any of my staff so it might as well have been me.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned next week for the continuation of my innermost secrets.