The U.S. day of thanks might not be celebrated today were it not for a remarkable woman named Sarah Hale (1788–1879).

It is well-known that pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 to give thanks for their bountiful harvest in the New World. In 1789, President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to commemorate the first Pilgrim celebration. But Thomas Jefferson, the third president, discontinued it federally. After this, Thanksgiving was observed by some individual states on whatever date suited them.

Then in 1828, Mrs. Hale, a patient, persistent 34-year-old widow and mother of four, began campaigning for the restoration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For years she wrote letters and sought appointments with national leaders—from five different Presidents on down. Time after time she was politely rebuffed, sometimes being told it was “impractical,” and “impossible.” Other times she was chased off and scolded with “this-is-none-of-your-business!”

But Sarah was relentless. And in 1863, President Lincoln listened seriously to her plea that North and South “lay aside enmities and strife on (Thanksgiving) Day.” He proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be the official “National Thanksgiving Day.” This day was finally ratified by U.S. Congress in 1941.

Sarah Hale was the first woman magazine editor in the U.S. and the first person to use the word “lingerie” to describe undergarments. Sarah also helped start the first college for girls in the States, was also the first to suggest public playgrounds, and started the first day nursery for working mothers. But Sarah Hale is probably best remembered as author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)