Most of us know some vague, historically inaccurate and racially insensitive tale about why we celebrate Thanksgiving, but the story of how the holiday came to be has a surprising hero. While today many women's magazine editors seem primarily focused on telling women they need to buy things in order to make themselves look presentable (when they aren't trying to convince us that our manfriends want us to surprise them with sex moves that they find uncomfortable and slightly frightening) we actually have a ladies' magazine editor to thank for the turkey dinner and ensuing four day weekend that we're about to enjoy.
Penny Colman, author of Thanksgiving: The True Story, tells the Washington Post that a New Hampshire woman named Sarah Josepha Hale was instrumental in making Thanksgiving a national holiday. When she started her decades-long campaign in the mid-19th century, the states celebrated the holiday at different times throughout the year, and the practice was unknown in some areas. At the time the only uniquely American holidays were Independence Day and Washington's birthday, and Hale, an editor at Godey's Lady's Book, believed that there should be a holiday that celebrated domestic tranquility rather than military prowess.
Hale wrote letters to several presidents advocating for the establishment of a national holiday of thanksgiving, and penned many editorials on the subject. She believe that the holiday should be on a Thursday, partially because that's the day George Washington designated as the first federal Thanksgiving in 1789, and because it was the best day for housewives. She wrote in one of her editorials, "Thursday is the most convenient day of the week for a domestic holiday." Women had set chores on other days of the week, and Hale figured that Thursday would be a great time for women to throw in making a huge feast for their extended family.
Finally, Hale helped convince Abraham Lincoln to set the last Thursday in November as a national holiday following the Civil War. It's a shame most school kids don't learn about her contribution to the holiday, but it makes sense. As far as we know she didn't shoot anybody, and children can't make a Sarah Josepha Hale costume in art class using only feathers and a strip of construction paper.
Thanksgiving And The History Of America's Long Weekends [Washington Post]