Magazine of the Month - Godey's Lady's Book

What is the connection between Thanksgiving Day and "Mary Had a Little Lamb"?

Published from 1830 - 1898 by Louis A. Godey, Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most successful women's magazines of the 19th century and a model for women's magazines for decades to come. By 1860 Godey's had a circulation of 150,000 and an estimated readership of one million. The magazine included fiction, poetry, biographical sketches, health tips, crafts, sheet music, house plans and recipes. But it was especially known for its hand colored fashion plates. The Denver Public Library has issues of Godey's from 1831 - 1878.

Much of the magazine's success can be attributed to Godey's longtime editor Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale was the editor from 1837 to 1877 when she retired at age 89. Widowed at 34 with 5 children, Hale started writing to earn extra money. She wrote a successful novel and several books of verse for children. Her collection Poems for Our Children included the now well known "Mary Had a Little Lamb". She was a tireless advocate for the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday and is credited as the person most responsible for making it a national holiday.

While Thanksgiving had been celebrated since the 1600's not all states celebrated it and there was no set date. As early as 1827, Hale began a one women crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She used the editorial pages of Godey's to campaign for the holiday and wrote letters to five presidents. Finally on October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation making the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day. She also tried to get Congress to pass a law establishing the holiday but did not live to see that happen. In 1941 Congress passed a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law on November 26, 1941.

If you are tired of turkey you might want to surprise your family and friends with this recipe from Godey's 1860.

Pigeon Pie:
Rub the pigeons with pepper and salt, inside and out; in the former put a bit of butter and, if approved, some parsley chopped with livers and a little of the same seasoning. Lay a beefsteak at the bottom of the dish and the birds cut in half on it; between every two, a hard egg; put a cup of water in the dish and, if there is any ham in the house, lay a bit on each pigeon - it is a great improvement to the flavor; season the gizzards and two joints of the wings, and put them in the centre of the pie, and over them, in a hole in the crust, three feet nicely cleaned, to show what pie it is. Cover with puff pastry.

Written by Mary on November 22, 2011


Lisa F. on November 23, 2011


Thank you for that tasty recipe, Mary. Is there a low-fat version?

Anonymous on November 25, 2011


This is fascinating, though I think I'll stick with pumpkin pie!

hose on December 18, 2014


great post

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