Feast of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (April 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Grave of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Image Source = Midnightdreary



Poet, Author, Editor, and Prophetic Witness

The Episcopal Church, in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), lists Sarah Josepha Buell Hale as “Editor and Prophetic Witness” and sets April 30 as her feast day.  This commemoration dates to 2009, when the denominational General Convention voted to recognize her and other “new” saints listed in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints, the expansion of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, still (as of 2017), the official calendar of saints for The Episcopal Church.

Sarah Josepha Buell, a native of New Hampshire, entered the world on October 24, 1788.  She came from a somewhat socially and politically revolutionary family.  Her parents, Captain Gordon Buell and Martha Buell, advocated for the equal education of males and females at a time when young women usually received educations designed to prepare them to become mothers and homemakers, not to pursue careers.  Sarah married attorney David Hale in 1813.  They remained married until 1822, when he died a few days before the birth of their fifth child.  Our saint wore black for the rest of her life and supported her family and herself as a writer and journalist.

Hale published more than 50 volumes, from poetry to novels to cookbooks to works on women’s history.  Her first volume of poetry was The Genius of Oblivion (1823).  Northwood:  A Tale of New England (1827) was the first American novel by a woman and one of the earliest American novels to address chattel slavery.  Poems for Our Little Children (1830) gave the world “Mary had a little lamb.”  The premise of Woman’s Record, or Sketches from the Creation to the Present Day (1853; revised in 1869 and 1876), her most popular book, was the moral superiority of women over men and the equating of the progress of women and that of Christianity.

Hale who grew up reading books such as the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, was ahead of her time in some ways and of her time in others.  True to her age, our saint bought into the twin fallacies of separate spheres and republican motherhood, whereby men and women moved in different social circles and women functioned properly as the moral guardians of the republic, raising young Americans, joining patriotic organizations, and lobbying male office holders yet did not vote or hold public offices.  Hale used her positions as the Editor of the popular Ladies’ Magazine (from 1828 to 1837) and its successor, Godey’s Lady’s Book (from 1837 to 1877) to promote her middle class notions of morality, etiquette, attire, et cetera.  On the other hand, she used those positions to promote the equal education of males and females, to help found Vassar College (in 1861), to argue for the property rights for women as well as for access to health care, to support women who chose careers, and to oppose slavery.  During the Civil War Hale supported the Union cause.  Before and after that conflict she promoted national unity.

Hale contributed to her nation in other ways.  She promoted the preservation of the historic sites at Bunker Hill and Mount Vernon.  And, starting in 1846, our saint advocated for the nationalization of the Thanksgiving holiday, observed in some states (mainly in New England) on different dates at the time.  President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Decree (1863) was the culmination of her efforts in that regard.

Hale died on April 30, 1879.  She was 90 years old.





Gracious God, we bless your Name for the union and witness of Sarah Hale,

whose advocacy for the ministry of women helped to support the deaconess movement.

Make us grateful for your many blessings, that we may come closer to Christ in our own families,

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 30:17-19, 22

Psalm 96

Philippians 1:27-2:2

Matthew 5:1-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 353



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: