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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Thanksgiving Owes Its Existence To The 19th Century's Biggest Social Media Influencer

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Thanksgiving today is now a commercially driven holiday with Black Friday following closely at its heels, celebrated with a department store parade, football, and at one point in time, masked costumes. But the holiday originally came into existence all thanks to a 19th-century widowed mother with no formal schooling. She eventually became one of America's most influential tastemakers.

Sarah Josepha Hale worked at the helm of one of the most widely read magazines in the nation, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale published Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others, while introducing American readers to such newfangled concepts as “domestic science,” white wedding gowns, and the Christmas tree. A prolific writer, Hale penned novels, recipe books, essays, and more, including the ubiquitous children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But one theme ran throughout her life, from her first novel published in 1827, to a mission accomplished 36 years later; Hale never stopped pushing the leaders of her time to officially recognize and celebrate gratitude. She finally got her wish by personally petitioning Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Today's guest is Denise Kiernan, author of "We Gather Together." Alongside the story of Hale, Kiernan brings to the fore the stories of Indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, women’s rights activists, abolitionists, and more, offering readers an inspiring tale of how imperfect people in challenging times can create powerful legacies.

From Ancient Rome through 21st-century America, festivals resembling Thanksgiving have been celebrated the idea of gratitude, as a compelling human instinct and a global concept, more than just a mere holiday.
November 24, 2020
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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