Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman

Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman

by Melanie Kirkpatrick
Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman

Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman

by Melanie Kirkpatrick


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For half a century Sarah Josepha Hale was the most influential woman in America. As editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale was the leading cultural arbiter for the growing nation. Women (and many men) turned to her for advice on what to read, what to cook, how to behave, and—most important—what to think. Twenty years before the declaration of women’s rights in Seneca Falls, NY, Sarah Josepha Hale used her powerful pen to promote women’s right to an education, to work, and to manage their own money.

There is hardly an aspect of nineteenth-century culture in which Hale did not figure prominently as a pathbreaker. She was one of the first editors to promote American authors writing on American themes. Her stamp of approval advanced the reputations of Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She wrote the first antislavery novel, compiled the first women’s history book, and penned the most recognizable verse in the English language, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Americans’ favorite holiday—Thanksgiving—wouldn’t exist without Hale. Re-imagining the New England festival as a patriotic national holiday, she conducted a decades-long campaign to make it happen. Abraham Lincoln took up her suggestion in 1863 and proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving.

Most of the women’s equity issues that Hale championed have been achieved, or nearly so. But women’s roles in the “domestic sphere” are arguably less valued today than in Hale’s era. Her beliefs about women’s obligations to family, moral leadership, and principal role in raising children continue to have relevance at a time when many American women think feminism has failed them. We could benefit from re-examining her arguments to honor women’s special roles and responsibilities.

Lady Editor re-creates the life of a major nineteenth-century woman, whose career as a writer, editor, and early feminist encompassed ideas central to American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641771788
Publisher: Encounter Books
Publication date: 08/03/2021
Pages: 324
Sales rank: 667,520
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Melanie Kirkpatrick is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. She is the author of Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience and Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad. She has lived in Tokyo, Toronto, Hong Kong, and Manhattan and now resides in rural Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Summer Snowstorm ix

Chapter 1 Daughter of the Revolution 1

Chapter 2 Wife and Widow 15

Chapter 3 The Ladies' Magazine 31

Chapter 4 Mary's Lamb 53

Chapter 5 Let the Ladies Do It 71

Chapter 6 The Prince of Publishers 91

Chapter 7 Literary Ladies 113

Chapter 8 The Dignity of Housekeeping 131

Chapter 9 A Suitable Job for a Woman 147

Chapter 10 Mrs. Hale's Magazine 167

Chapter 11 Our Glorious Thanksgiving Day 183

Chapter 12 Hale's Civil War 201

Chapter 13 Twilight Years 219

Afterword: Sarah Who? 231

In Her Own Words 239

Acknowledgments 251

Notes 255

Index 277

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Before there was Anna Wintour, there was Sarah Josepha Hale, one of the most influential magazine editors of the nineteenth century. Thanks to Melanie Kirkpatrick, Hale finally has the biography she deserves—richly detailed and marvelously written.”
—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Travels with George and Mayflower

“Sarah Josepha Hale was responsible for nothing less than legitimizing the American fashion industry and making permanent the most cherished of American holidays. Yet this powerful tastemaker and groundbreaking voice for ‘ladies’—so influential in both publishing and politics that she must rank as the Anna Wintour of the nineteenth century—has been all but erased from history. Fortunately, Melanie Kirkpatrick has rescued Hale from obscurity in an absolutely splendid biography that deserves a major place on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the neglected superstars of the nation’s past.”
—Harold Holzer, winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for Lincoln and the Power of the Press

“Think of Sarah Josepha Hale as the great enabler of nineteenth-century American literature. As the formidable editor of the Ladies’ Magazine and then Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale gave the careers of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Lydia Sigourney their start and fanned the flames of Longfellow, Whittier, and Poe. Death and necessity were the fosterers of her talent, but her talent made American letters buzz. Philanthropy, monuments, Christmas trees, and Abraham Lincoln all fell within her orbit. And how appropriate that a fellow journalist, Melanie Kirkpatrick, should bring Hale back in view in this lively and intriguing biography of the first-among-equals of American women.”
—Allen C. Guelzo, Princeton University, author of the New York Times bestseller Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

“Sarah Josepha Hale’s belief in the potential of women transformed the world of opportunities for women today. As editor of the popular Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale championed women’s education, women in the workplace, and women’s often-undervalued work in the home. Teachers and doctors should be particularly grateful for her steadfast commitment to encouraging women to enter these occupations. Extensively researched and beautifully written, Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Lady Editor is an important and inspiring portrait of an extraordinary American.”
—Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Transportation and Labor, the first Asian American woman to be appointed to the president’s cabinet, and a Distinguished Fellow at Hudson Institute

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