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Thanksgiving kindness (Parshat Vayishlach)

15 2 1
26.11.2021

If anyone remembers Sarah Josepha Hale today, it is most likely because of her campaign which led to establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States. Or perhaps because she provided funds to ensure the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument, a memorial commemorating the 1775 battle of the Revolutionary War. Even if you don’t know her name, you likely know one of her poems, “Mary had a little lamb.”

But Hale was much more than that. To my mind, her activism for women’s rights and education was even more significant and did more to shape the United States of America.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

Hale was born on October 24, 1788, on a farm near Newport, New Hampshire. Her father, Captain Gordon Buell, was a Revolutionary War veteran. Her mother was named Martha Whittlesay Buell. Hale’s parents believed that boys and girls should both receive the same education, so they homeschooled Sarah while her brother Horatio attended Dartmouth College and shared his books with her.

Hale grew to become a smart, educated young woman, and wanted to teach others. However, women were not accepted as teachers in those days. So, at the age of 18, she opened her own private school.

During this time, an incident occurred that she would later use as the inspiration for a poem. According to Sherbrooke Rogers, one of Hale’s biographers:

Sarah began teaching young boys and girls in a small school not far from her home [in Newport, New Hampshire]… It was at this small school that the incident involving ‘Mary’s Lamb’ is reputed to have taken place. Sarah was surprised one morning to see one of her students, a girl named Mary, enter the classroom followed by her pet lamb. The visitor was far too distracting to be permitted to remain in the building and so Sarah ‘turned him out.’ The lamb stayed nearby till school was dismissed and then ran up to Mary looking for attention and protection. The other youngsters wanted to know why the lamb loved Mary so much and their teacher explained it was because Mary loved her pet.

Sarah began teaching young boys and girls in a small school not far from her home [in Newport, New Hampshire]… It was at this small school that the incident involving ‘Mary’s Lamb’ is reputed to have taken place. Sarah was surprised one morning to see one of her students, a girl named Mary, enter the classroom followed by her pet lamb. The visitor was far too distracting to be permitted to remain in the building and so Sarah ‘turned him out.’ The lamb stayed nearby till school was dismissed and then ran up to Mary looking for attention and protection. The other youngsters wanted to know why the lamb loved Mary so much and their teacher explained it was because Mary loved her pet.

A few years later, in 1811, her father, who suffered from ill health as a result of the Revolutionary War, gave up the farm to open a tavern, named The Rising Sun. That same year Sarah met a young lawyer named David Hale, and the two were married in 1813. He supported her quest for ongoing education, and she soon gave up her teaching position to establish a small literary club and begin her first forays into writing.

The couple had five children, David (1815), Horatio (1817), Frances (1819), Sarah (1820) and William (1822). (Horatio went on to become a prominent ethnologist and philologist, tracing the ancient migrations and languages of the Cherokee and other native Americans). Advertisement

Hale’s husband David died suddenly of pneumonia in 1823, and Sarah wore black for the rest of her life as a sign of mourning. In the meanwhile, she was left to raise the children, the eldest of whom was only eight, and no clear means of financial support.

Fortunately, her late husband’s Masonic Lodge stepped in to support her. The Lodge set up Hale and her sister-in-law Hannah with a hat shop.

Its members also financed Hale’s first book, published that same year, entitled, “The Genius of Oblivion.” She ended the dedication with the following lines of gratitude:

Still your patronage shall be my boast. You kindly gave it, when ’twas needed most. Advertisement

Still your patronage shall be my boast. You kindly gave it, when ’twas needed most. Advertisement

Soon, the income from the book allowed her to stop selling hats and focus full-time on teaching and writing. In 1827, Hale published her first novel, “Northwood: Life North and South.” This made her one of the first female published authors in the US, and one of the first to write about slavery. Northwood: Life North and South, 1852 edition. (Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

Following the success of “Northwood,” Hale was invited by the Reverend John Lauris Blake to move to Boston and edit his new periodical, “Ladies Magazine.” Blake himself was a bestselling author, best known for his book, “A General Biographical Dictionary, Comprising a Summary Account of the Most Distinguished Persons of All Ages, Nations and Professions, including more than one thousand articles of American Biography” (or “General Biographical Dictionary” for short).

Hale was faced with a dilemma – moving to Boston would mean she would have to leave most of her children behind in Newport, in the care of others. Eventually, she decided to make the move and take charge of the magazine. Her preferred title was “editress” and the journal........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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