Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hokies Thank the World

As many of you already know, the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Block Project has entered into a new phase. Principal photography has now been completed and the task of assigning talented quilters to stitch the blocks together is underway. We hope to have more photos of these quilts as things develop.

In the mean time, we wanted to share with you this heart warming message from the University addressed to the world. It seems especially fitting to everyone who has participated in this project so far.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

American Thanksgiving

Many people know the story of the first Thanksgiving, about how the Native Americans and the European Pilgrims celebrated the first Fall Harvest of 1621 together. And, they are familiar with the story of how those pilgrims suffered tremendous hardships, but thanks to their hard work and the generosity of the Indians, they were eventually able to scratch out a living in this "New World."

First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

But fewer people know about the role Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of "Godey's Lady Book" magazine, played in making Thanksgiving into a permanent National Holiday. For nearly fifteen years, she had written numerous editorials in her magazine and sent several letters urging various State Governors to proclaim the last Thursday in November a "Day of Thanksgiving," most of whom did. But in 1863, she wrote to President Abraham Lincoln requesting that he declare Thanksgiving a permanent National Holiday.

Sarah J. Hale wrote the following editorial, which appeared in a February 1860 edition of her magazine. She included it, with others like it, in her correspondence to the President. She wrote:

We may now consider Thanksgiving a National Holiday. It will no longer be a partial and vacillating commemoration of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, observed in one section or State, while other portions of our common country do not sympathize in the gratitude or gladness. It is to be a regularly recurring Festival appointed by the concert of the State Governments to be observed on the last Thursday in November--thus made, for all future time, The American Thanksgiving Day.

Sarah then goes on to list thirty-two of the various "States and Territories [which] held and consecrated this New National Holiday." She also explains how and when the State Governors should issue the necessary proclamations. In the same article, Sarah further writes:

God has given to man authority, to women influence; she inspires and persuades, i.e. convinces and compels. For the last twelve years, the editress of the Lady's Book [Sarah] has been endeavoring to bring about this agreement in popular feeling. We have used our influence always, we trust, in a womanly way, and now we would render our deep gratitude to God who has blessed our humble prayers and effort, and express our thus publicly our thanks to those generous men who have encouraged and accomplished our plan. We now leave the perpetuation of this good work, by the enactment of a statute in each State, to the good and patriotic men everywhere to be found, who love the Constitution and the Union.

Everything that contributes to bind us in one vast empire together, to quicken the sympathy that makes us feel from the icy North to the Sunny south that we are one family, each a member of a great and free Nation, not merely the unit of a remote locality, is worthy of being cherished. We have sought to reawaken and increase this sympathy, believing that the fine filaments of the affections are stronger than the laws to keep the Union of our States sacred in the hearts of our people.

In many of her letters and articles, Sarah had often explained how she felt Thanksgiving could unite a dispersed and divided country. Sarah also argued that Thanksgiving would be a welcome third addition to the already established National Holidays of Washington's Birthday and Independence Day, also known as The Fourth of July.

First Page of Sarah J. Hale's Letter to President Lincoln

So, the next time you are celebrating Thanksgiving with your family, whether you're eating Turkey, decorating your house for the holidays, or sewing on that special seasonal project, be sure to give a little thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale for helping make Thanksgiving an important part of our National Heritage.