Godey's Had A Little Lamb, Her Name Was Sarah Hale

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JPK Huson 1863

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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.
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Accomplished? Oh my.
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* “ 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.
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*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.
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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.
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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.
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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? :angel: 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..
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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.

http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Godmother_of_Thanksgiving.pdf
http://www.newportnh.net/index.php?doc=3_88
 
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Northern Light

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I really can see her point in not including the war in her magazine. There were plenty of other places to read about it, if one wanted to do so. Personally, I enjoy finding a magazine which has beautiful photos and gentle articles and short stories, and NO trash about celebrities, how to improve my sex life, or whatever horrible things are going on. Maybe Sarah Hale saw Godey's as an oasis of calm and peace in the maelstrom of war.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Since posting this, I've come to take issue with the popular notion Hale completely ignored the war. Since she did lose readership, ' proof is in the pudding ', ( although what in blazes pudding has to do with proof has always bothered me ).

Godey's did a striking cover devoted to the war- only one I discovered but haven't searched extensively.. In browsing, there are articles and references to the war plus any number of illustrations If anything she may have alienated Southern readership, and understood this.

It's also possible Hale felt she provided a haven away from the war- somewhere women could escape from worries and fear. It backfired if so, some finding it offensive Hale would seem to ignore their sons, husbands, fathers and brothers embroiled in struggles for their lives.

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John Hartwell

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You can visit Mary's Little Lamb on the Common in Sterling, Mass.
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The story of the origin, and authorship, of the famous children's rhyme is a little complicated:

For prospective "literary tourists," Mary's Little Lamb Schoolhouse (Sterling's 1798, District No. 2 school) was moved to Sudbury, Mass. by Henry Ford in 1924, and restored (it's right next to Longfellow's Wayside Inn).
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The little one-room schoolhouse is genuine, but the association with Mary and lamb appears to be apocryphal.

[BTW: Sterling was also the home of Ebenezer Buttrick, who, in 1896 patented the first Buttrick dress pattern.]
 
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Mike Serpa

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Thanks (again) JPK for an informative post. I learned something new. And I learned after all these years the famous poem has two extra stanzas!
 
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WJC

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View attachment 98534
Sarah Josephina Buell, later Mrs. David Hale
Interesting story. Thanks for posting!
We often hear how relationships were destroyed, successes undermined because a person took a stand for one side or the other during the period.
Here is a case where a prominent, successful person was hurt- at least in part- by not taking a stand....
 

JPK Huson 1863

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You can visit Mary's Little Lamb on the Common in Sterling, Mass.
The story of the origin, and authorship, of the famous children's rhyme is a little complicated:

For prospective "literary tourists," Mary's Little Lamb Schoolhouse (Sterling's 1798, District No. 2 school) was moved to Sudbury, Mass. by Henry Ford in 1924, and restored (it's right next to Longfellow's Wayside Inn). View attachment 131182 The little one-room schoolhouse is genuine, but the association with Mary and lamb appears to be apocryphal.

[BTW: Sterling was also the home of Ebenezer Buttrick, who, in 1896 patented the first Buttrick dress pattern.]

Ah. Yes but Fred Butterick swiped the idea from the Demorest's famous empire- first patterns were part of their genius, comprehensive approach to selling women ( and men ) fashion through magazines and mail. Bafflingly failing to patent their idea, Butterick put them out of business. Godey's carried Demorest's patterns, then Demorest's magazine included a free pattern in each issue. It was a crazy good idea so why such terrific business megastars missed the boat on paten is anyone's guess.
 

LoriAnn

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Oct 9, 2015
I really can see her point in not including the war in her magazine. There were plenty of other places to read about it, if one wanted to do so. Personally, I enjoy finding a magazine which has beautiful photos and gentle articles and short stories, and NO trash about celebrities, how to improve my sex life, or whatever horrible things are going on. Maybe Sarah Hale saw Godey's as an oasis of calm and peace in the maelstrom of war.
This is my thought as well and likely the road I would have taken if in her shoes.

Godey's did a striking cover devoted to the war- only one I discovered but haven't searched extensively.. In browsing, there are articles and references to the war plus any number of illustrations If anything she may have alienated Southern readership, and understood this.
That would be my fear ~ featuring one side and alienating the other. From a business perspective, that's something to avoid at all costs, of course. Yet she lost readership anyway? Seems she was doomed either way.
 
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