As your family prepares to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, it is a perfect time to think about the meaning behind the holiday and what it means to give thanks. But did you know that the holiday we celebrate today almost never came to be?
Long before women in this country could even vote, a brave and tenacious woman named Sarah Hale saved Thanksgiving by writing letters—lot and lots of letters. It actually took decades of letter writing, the Civil War and five presidents to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Before Hale’s efforts, Thanksgiving was only celebrated in New England and each state scheduled its own date…some as early as October and others as late as January! Her advocacy for the national holiday began in 1846 and she wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States: Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. She eventually persuaded President Lincoln to establish a national holiday in 1863, where it served to bolster the nation’s spirit after the Civil War.
In addition, Sarah was also the first female magazine editor in America and the composer of the popular nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Inspired by Sarah’s story, author Laurie Halse Anderson wrote a children’s book titled Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. On the last page of the book, you will find the following passage.
“Some people think that children have no power because they can’t vote. Wrong. Children have a great deal of influence. They can write to newspaper editors and government representatives, petition community leaders, and
So…pick up a pen and change the world, after you read the book, of course!
- Talk with your family about the idea of social issues and why they are important.
- Brainstorm together and make a list of current social issues.
- Identify a social cause that is important to your family. Talk about why you care about this issue.
- Determine who (besides you) has the power to influence change on the matter. Is it your local city council? Mayor? Governor? Government representatives?
- Write a letter to them and explain your feelings about the issue and what action you would like to see for positive change.
- Share your letter with friends and family that might also support the cause.
- Ask them to help by writing letters of their own.
- See how your letter writing campaign can make a difference.
Did You Know?
Prior to the addition of Thanksgiving, the only national holidays celebrated in the United States were Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day. With your child, research the history behind other national holidays and talk about why we celebrate those days. If your child was President, what days would he or she make a national holiday and why? What causes do they think are worthy of national celebration?
This Learning Adventures project is sponsored by Primrose Schools. Activity idea provided by Oklahoma A+ Schools, the state’s only research-based whole school network with a mission of nurturing creativity in every learner. Learn more at www.okaplus.org.