“Never underestimate dainty little ladies,” says Laurie Halse Anderson in her lovely picture book Thank you, Sarah: the woman who saved Thanksgiving. This is probably very good advice, and only one reason why one should never scoff at children’s books, even picture books. You can learn a great deal from these little gems. Did you know that Thanksgiving was once in danger? Me either. Keep reading.
Thank you, Sarah tells the story of Sarah Hale, a wife and mother of five children who also – in – her spare time argued for playgrounds for children, schools for girls, historical monuments for everyone, wrote poetry and novels, children’s books and biographies, was the first female magazine editor in America, published some of our greatest authors, like Edgar Allan Poe, and composed “Mary had a little lamb.” I have a suspicion she also invented multi-tasking. But back to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, while celebrated fairly regularly in New England, was in danger of being forgotten elsewhere in the country, and Sarah felt very strongly that it was a holiday that should be celebrated by everyone, on the same day. She started a letter writing campaign which eventually encouraged the states, one by one, to make it a holiday. But that wasn’t enough; Sarah wanted it to be a national holiday, and so she continued her letter writing campaign. She wrote to President Zachary Taylor. He said “no.” She waited for a new President, and then wrote to Millard Fillmore (No)—and eventually to Franklin Pierce (No), James Buchanan (No), and finally to Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln said Yes! In 1863 President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. It took Sarah Hale five Presidents, 38 years, thousands of letters and countless bottles of ink—but she did it.
This delightful book not only presents lots of facts and trivia about Thanksgiving, but also gives more information about Sarah Hale’s life, and what happens to her in her later years. Most importantly, it conveys the message that, if you believe in something strongly enough, you should never give up. Be persistent, state your message calmly, and persevere. On the 150th anniversary of Thanksgiving’s birth as a national holiday, we should give thanks for Sarah Hale and her message: Pick up your pen. Change the world.