Sarah Josephina Buell, later Mrs. David Hale
Ok, that was a little cheap. For whatever reason a seriously accomplished novelist slash poet slash business woman slash literary editor is best remembered for a poem introducing us to two beloved, iconic literary characters- ' Mary ' and an inexplicably nameless lamb with snowy white fleece.
One of the most public and influential, accomplished, self sufficient and ‘ liberated ‘( kinda , she did not throw her slight weight behind the women's movement ) women of the 19th century bizarrely omitted all mention of the bloody, social and political cloud rolling over the country from her unbelievably popular publication. Committing what many considered an unfathomable faux pas Sarah Josephina Buell Hale put an abrupt end to a soaringly brilliant career and truncated her magazine’s reign as America’s premier women’s magazine. At 70 and a career inclusive of much public service, a tough send off. Still, Good Heavens, one would hope this woman had a well-deserved rest.
Accomplished? Oh my.
* “ Mary Had A Little Lamb “ was famously written by Hale, included in her book ‘ Poetry for Children ‘ published 1823 . Incredibly-' Mary' also had a bird. Just a bird, not little. It had a cage.
*Authored 2 dozen other books,books about manners, cooking and housekeeping,
seven volumes of poetry, and six volumes of fiction
* Matthew Vassar’s friend, helped organize Vassar College.
*Fought for property rights for married women
*Fought for advancement of women’s wages
*Fought to have Mount Vernon declared a national memorial
*In 1823 began lobbying to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday. President Lincoln was to finally and famously usher Sarah Josephina Hale’s Thanksgiving request into America’s holdiday heart in 1863
*Advocated physical education for females
*Strong advocate of education for all women
*Compiled a book that recognized over two thousand women writers
from the earliest recorded history of women’s literary activity
*Served on the Board of Lady Managers at the Philadelphia
School of Design for Women (Moore School of Art & Design)
*Established the Fatherless & Widows Society of Boston, helped foster the
Seaman's Aid Society & the Merchant Marine Library Association,
threw herself behind the Boston Ladies Peace Society and child welfare league.
Gordon Buell and Martha Whittlesey’s daughter was a child of another century, born not long after the country’s birth pangs stilled, in 1788. Growing up in affluence in Newport, Rhode Island ( her father’s tavern, The Rising Sun is still a tourist stop ) Sarah’s destiny lay there through youth and young adulthood, marriage and 5 children with fellow scholar and attorney David. He died in 1822. Since Sarah’s first book was published in 1823 she either had a very swift writing process and publisher or had been writing and her husband’s death propelled the widow into professional status. What is a little crazy is this was one of the first books written by a woman, published in America.
1827 found Sarah in Boston riding her success awfully hard, writing books, being noticed. A good bio would fill in the gaps with active paragraphs representative of the years before Godey “ came calling “ . This isn’t one. Sarah did make enough terrific noise in the high brow literary world that in 1828, she took on the editorship of “The Ladies Magazine of Boston “, the first magazine for women edited by a woman.
Philadelphia editor of competitor ' Lady's Book ' came calling in 1837, Peter Godey recognizing in Sarah Josephina Buell Hale the sheer talent and insight into women's lives, minds and hearts to put his little magazine somewhere special. What a call. Shortly issued as 'Godey's Lady's Book ' , Peter and Sarah's professional partnership would last 40 years. By today's business standards unheard of; rare enough nearly 200 years ago.
Godey's, under Sarah's brilliant direction was a must-read journal targeted at women of a certain class- and those disposed to copy or closely follow them, those women being likely to be found draped gracefully over horses in flowing velvet riding habits. Since the magazine considered itself comprehensive, offering in each issue cooking lessons, recipes, child rearing tips, moralistic stories featuring finely ' bred ' females, sewing patterns for everything from adult clothing to children's shoes to doggie jackets to purses, to a house plans- small wonder this periodical quickly became the single most successful women's read in the United States. As editor and veritable inventor, Sarah Josephina was a celebrity. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was our publishing hub in mid-century 1800's. Sarah could forgivably have considered herself its hubcap.
For forty years, that's four zero, Sarah enjoyed her reign. She worked, and hard, however. Her one, stubborn 'oversight' however would cost her dearly. Sarah just, plain disallowed a whiff of politics or contention to appear in Godey's Lady's Book. Through the years of publication we know there was growing unrest swirling through our country, abolition, women's rights, child labor- so much of which affected her readers hugely. As war approached, then took over front pages of every, other printed publication, Godey's remained shockingly silent, void of comment save for a stray soldier perhaps wandering into a fashion plate as a model's escort. It was found to be both callous and unforgivable. Hale's reasoning was never made clear.
Between Godey's mute stance on the war and citizens not choosing to indulge frivolities during those years, Hale lost 1/3 of her market between 1861 and 1865. It was an unrecoverable hit. She retired, at 70 maybe a little ready- together with Peter Godey who sold the magazine. Other, more progressive magazines like " Harpers " took " Godey's " place at America's number one.
These ' bio ' threads become terribly long, every, single detail included. We've done them and it loses a lot, going into far too much detail. There's a line somewhere for threads- is it a book, an article or a paper? Is there a quiz? Point being, what is there about this person which was quite wonderful, relevant and memorable and why should we know them? That's
generally what I'm getting at, of the era, better believe. Heck, who cannot ' Google ' an extensive amount of information on any of our chosen, ' common ancestors '? Suffice to say Sarah of course never fell into obscurity or died destitute. Born into wealth, she died wealthy at 91, in Pennsylvania, where she is buried, with a list of accomplishments to her vast credit..
Wasn't she dear? I could have done a lot more on specific areas of Sarah's life and accomplishments- such as her correspondence with Lincoln, back and forth. Unless someone posts that now, would rather save that for November. This is meant to be more just ' Sarah', enough to pique interest without putting anyone to sleep. These threads never do well- one, more female, right? It's a great piece of History though- and kind of bizarre in places, a little sad and part mystery.
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