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The Woman Behind Thanksgiving Day

The Woman Behind Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday, a special day of being thankful for my family and friends and the love we share, celebrated by a great feast.  When I was a boy, we always celebrated Thanksgiving Day with my mom’s side of the family.  Mom was one of ten children born to Georgia and Randel Gholson.  They lived on a farm and when the Gholson Family met at their home on Thanksgiving Day, that meant over 40 people in attendance, mostly made up of my cousins.  We had great times running through the woods and playing in the barn on their farm.  Once Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into town, we held the feast at our house.  Behind our house was a park where we always played football before the big feast.  There are many memories of chaos, camaraderie and home cooked cuisine, along with all the love that made it happen.


New York was the first of several states that made Thanksgiving Day an official holiday.  Of the states that celebrated Thanksgiving, they all celebrated on a different day. Many states, particularly those in the South, were oblivious to this emerging tradition and holiday.  That was, until Sarah Josepha Hale, (you probably know her most famous work as an author, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), provided leadership and launched a campaign in 1827 to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  Talk about a woman with patience!  It took her 36 years, during which time she published magazine articles and editorials along with countless letters to governors senators, presidents and other politicians.  Finally, in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed a proclamation for all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”  The last Thursday of November was established as Thanksgiving Day until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales.  Yes, even back then, holiday commercialization was an issue.  President Roosevelt’s plan became known as Franksgiving, a label dedicated to the divisiveness of this issue.  In 1941, he reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday of November,

If it were not for the perseverance and leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale, and her 36-year campaign to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, who know how things would have turned out.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my memories of Thanksgiving Days of the past, and, for Sarah Josepha Hale.  And I’m thankful to you for reading this!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you and yours have a great Thanksgiving!

Please enjoy these words of Thanksgiving from my hero, President Abraham Lincoln.

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget thesource from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary in nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.


In the midst of civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore is as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward, Secretary of State

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