Sarah J. Hale

sarah hale.jpg

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879).

Originally from Newport, New Hampshire, Sarah Hale was educated at home by her brother, who attended Dartmouth College. With his help, she received an education few women of her time had access to. In 1823, she published The Genius of Oblivion, her first book of poetry that sold well enough to allow her to write full-time. In 1827, she published Northwood: Life North and South, to positive reviews. Shortly after, Hale moved to Boston and later to Philadelphia, and for forty years edited The Ladies Magazine (later Godey’s Lady’s Book), the most influential periodical for women in the United States. Hale’s other accomplishments included raising funds to complete the Bunker Hill Monument, making Thanksgiving a national holiday, and establishing Vassar College.


The Ladies Magazine (Boston: 1830).

As “editress,” Hale envisioned a magazine that would educate women, and encouraged many women authors to submit their work to the publication. Founded by Reverend John Lauris Blake, Episcopal minister and headmaster of the Cornhill School for Young Ladies, the magazine was meant to be a model for American womanhood. This magazine is the first in the country edited by a woman.


Northwood; or Life North and South (Boston: 1827).

With this novel, Hale became one of the first American women novelists and the first American man or woman to write about slavery.


Poems for our Children (Boston: 1830).

“Mary’s Lamb” first appeared in print in 1830. Lowell Mason, a friend of Hale’s, wrote music to accompany the poem sometime in the 1830s. The result, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was first recorded by Thomas Edison on his new phonograph in 1877.


A.L.S. to Mr. D. Henshaw (Boston: October 23, 1829).


A.L.S. to Mr. D. Henshaw (Boston: October 23, 1829) back.

Hale was always on the lookout for inspiration for her Ladies Book articles:

Sir. I saw yesterday while endeavoring to find some suitable design with which to ornament the November number of the Ladies’ Magazine a drawing of the Chelsea Hospital… I like the drawing and it occurred to me that were there an illustration of the picture (a story might easily be written founded on fiction if facts could not be obtained), it would be appropriate for my work. I will write a story for the design unless you think a sketch of the history of the Hospital would be more appropriate…



A.L.S. to Mrs. Bannister (Philadelphia: January 13, 1852).

Hale worked tirelessly for many causes, including promoting women in medicine and reducing the plight of Native Americans. In this letter, she expresses the wisdom of women taking care of other women:

Remember that Christian men can never teach or aid the heathen women; what is done for them must be accomplished by the ministrations of Christian ladies.