Just 60 miles from the first credit union in the United States is Newport, New Hampshire, the birthplace of Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale dedicated her life to the education of women and social causes. She was the editor of Godey's Lady's Book. She penned Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Tomorrow we get to enjoy another piece of Hale's legacy: Thanksgiving. Make no mistake, Thanksgiving was "a thing" (at least off and on) in New England since the Wampanoags and Pilgrims feasted in 1621. But it wasn't a national holiday. Political tension between the American North and South was exhausting for Hale. She thought that a national day of Thanksgiving would unite the two sides (even if only for a day) around the idea of thankfulness and togetherness. So, in 1846 she began publicly advocating for an annual national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday of November. The South rejected the idea, seeing it as a "Yankee holiday" -- an attempt to force Northern values on the Southern way of life.
Over the next 16 years, as the nation's tensions elevated and climaxed into a brutal war, Hale continued to plead her case. Letters were written to five presidents. Just as the Pilgrims nearly starved to death in 1620, the United States nearly died during the great Civil War. Finally, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared a formal, national day of Thanksgiving. The feast in 1621 was a celebration of a bountiful harvest that promised at least one more year of survival. Union victories in Gettysburg and Vicksburg suggested that the idea of America, though battered, may live on.
"I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."
- Abraham Lincoln, 1863
There is so much for us all to be thankful for this season. Even in the hardest of times, we've all been blessed in so many ways. Tomorrow, and every day after, let's all try to remember that. The promise of credit unions is still alive. Your role in realizing that promise is vital. And as thankful as we each should be...we have even more to look forward to.
- Matt and Denise