Learn about the “Mother of Thanksgiving’s” Relentless Campaign
Press Release · Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Washington, DC

On Tuesday, November 24, at 7 p.m. ET, we (virtually) welcome back author Denise Kiernan to discuss her latest book, We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace. Kiernan details the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling who became one of the 19th century’s most influential tastemakers and who campaigned for decades to make real an annual day of thanks. Alongside the story of Hale, Kiernan brings to the fore the stories of Indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, women’s rights activists, abolitionists, and others. Joining Kiernan in conversation will be author and historian Karen Abbott. Presented in partnership with the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia. Register to attend. Watch the livestream on the National Archives YouTube channel. See the related special resource page: The National Archives Celebrates Thanksgiving!

We Gather Together is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War. Working 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. She also introduced 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 children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” And Hale herself never stopped pushing the leaders of her time in pursuit of her goal.

Populated by a supporting cast of characters including Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Norman Rockwell, and others, We Gather Together is ultimately a story of tenacity and dedication. The man who finally granted her wish about a national “thanksgiving” was Abraham Lincoln, the President of the war-torn nation. 

Denise Kiernan is an author, journalist and producer. She is co-author of the popular history titles, Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence and its sequel, Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution, The Last Castle and The Girls of Atomic City. Denise’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, Ms., and other national publications. In addition to her books for adults and children, she was head writer for ABC Television's "Who Wants to be Millionaire" during its Emmy award-winning first season and has produced for ESPN, MSNBC and others. She lives in North Carolina.

Karen Abbott is a contributing history writer for and the author of the books Sin in the Second City, American Rose, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, and The Ghosts of Eden Park. She has written for, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and other publications, and has appeared on the History Channel, CBS Sunday Morning, AMC's "Making of the Mob," the Travel Channel's "Monumental Mysteries," and the Discovery Channel. 


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This page was last reviewed on November 24, 2020.
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