Episode 8: Sarah Josepha Hale, The Mother of Thanksgiving / by Eric Jaffe


Produced and Written by Eric Jaffe


Kate Wright as Lottie & Sarah Josepha Hale

Eric Jaffe as Gif

Sound Design by Trae Budde

"Time Turners Theme" by Daniel Hildreth


LOTTIE: Hello, Time Cadets! This is Lottie—

GIF: —and this is GIF.

LOTTIE: And we’re finally back!


GIF: Thank you, thank you.

LOTTIE: Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Where have you been?” Well, I’ll let GIF explain...

GIF: We ran out of money.

LOTTIE: (Whispers) No, give them the answer we rehearsed.

GIF: We’ve been working extra hard on a very special holiday episode.

LOTTIE: Yes! It’s going to be longer, funnier, more action-packed and—

GIF: Expensive.

LOTTIE: And bigger than ever before. But, yes, like GIF said, it’s also going to be more expensive. Lots of guests means lots of oil for the time machine and lots of oil for the time machine means lots of expenses.

GIF: Money, money, money.

LOTTIE: So, if you’re feeling generous, we would really appreciate your support. Just go to www.patreon.com/timeturners and donate as much or as little as you’d like. Every dollar counts.

GIF: And every donation of $10 or more will get a very special gift from me and Lottie in 2018. What is it? Donate to find out.

LOTTIE: That website again was P-A-T-R-E-O-N dot come slash time turners.

GIF: I also put a link on our Instagram page and in the show notes, so follow @timeturnerspod on Instagram today to get the latest updates.

LOTTIE: Anyway, you didn’t come here for announcements: You came here for history and, today, we have a doozy. GIF, you’ve been researching for today’s episode for five weeks now, why don’t you tell just what you know about Thanksgiving?

GIF: Just about everything there is to know. It all started in when the Pilgrims and the Native Americans decided to together for brunch. Someone was like, “Let’s have a salad.” And someone else was like, “Salad?! That’s not very celebratory,” so instead they had turkey and everyone went home with a full tummy. They were so thankful that they skipped salad that they decided to celebrate the decision every year with a national holiday. And that’s why, on the fourth Thursday of every year, we skip the salad and get real fat for Thanksgiving!

LOTTIE: Uhhhhhh… no.

GIF: Okay, fine, I didn’t have time to research. Are you happy now?

LOTTIE: What have you been doing for the past month?

GIF: Playing Mario Odyssey.

LOTTIE: Okay, just bring in today’s guest.

GIF: Ladies and gentleman, the creator of Thanksgiving: Sarah Josepha Hale!



LOTTIE: Wait a second, you don’t look like a pilgrim. Gif, are you sure this is the creator of Thanksgiving?

GIF: That’s what Wikipedia said.

LOTTIE: I told you Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source. Send her back.


SARAH: Back?! Wait, why?!

LOTTIE: Sorry, Miss Hale, we’re looking for the creator of Thanksgiving.

SARAH: But that’s me!

LOTTIE: Yeah, okay. Nice try, lady, but I’m an expert in accents over history and, frankly, you sound more like a magazine editor from 1827 than a pilgrim from 1609. Sorry. 

SARAH: Well, I am a magazine editor from 1827! But I also created Thanksgiving. I also wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb and founded the Seamen’s Aid Society and… Sorry, I don’t usually talk about myself this much. I just really, really want to be on this podcast.

GIF: You know about Time Turners?

SARAH: Yes, your interview with President Polk was a real inspiration to me.

GIF: Who’s President Polk?

SARAH: The 11th President of the United States.

LOTTIE: We interviewed President Polk?

SARAH: Well, no, not yet. You will in the future. But your future interviews with my associates are also in my past. Does that make sense?


SARAH: Mr. Polk told me that you told him you’d already spoken to me but I knew you hadn’t, at least not before 1925, so the only reasonable assumption was that that one day you’d be speaking to me before him in the future. Look, I even have a note from him.


LOTTIE: “Dear Lottie, See you in season two! Do the Hokie-Polk-ie! (You’ll get that later!) Love, Polka-Polk.” Wow.

GIF: Time travel is confusing.

SARAH: Tell me about it, girl.

LOTTIE: Okay, so you created Thanksgiving. How? What? Who? Sorry, I’m just so confused.

SARAH: Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

GIF: After this break!

[“Talking to Myself” advertisement]

LOTTIE: And we’re back. Today’s guest is Sarah Josepha Hale, the creator of Thanksgiving. 

SARAH: Actually, that’s a little misleading. I didn’t “create” Thanksgiving. I just help establish it as a national holiday. You see, back in 1837, I was given the chance to edit Godey’s Magazine.

LOTTIE: I’ve heard of that.

SARAH: As you should have. In my time, Godey’s was considered the “queen of monthly publications.” We were the most-read magazine in America before the Civil War.

GIF: What’s a magazine?

LOTTIE: It’s like the internet on paper.

GIF: Oh!

LOTTIE: Sorry, Sarah. Please, continue.

SARAH: As I was saying, I was the editor of a popular magazine. But, more importantly, I was a mother to four incredible children. My husband, David, had passed several years earlier, so, in addition to being an editor, I was also a full-time parent. It was a difficult, busy time in my life, but I loved my work and I loved my family. That’s why I chose to use my position as editor to bring families together with a national holiday.

LOTTIE: How did you do that?

SARAH:  Every November for 17 years, I’d write an editorial in Godey’s celebrating Thanksgiving as a time to gather families and give thanks. I’d list recipes, suggest attire, provide decor shopping lists. I was like Oprah. President Polk told me about her, too. He’s a big fan.

GIF: Were you the one who chose to make Thanksgiving on a Thursday?

SARAH: I was. I chose Thursday because it gave us ladies enough time to prepare a fantastic meal and still have enough time to prepare the traditional weekly Sunday dinner! You’re welcome, Lottie.

LOTTIE: I don’t even know how to use a microwave.

GIF: Why didn’t the men cook?

[SARAH laughs.]

SARAH: You’re killing me, Gif.

GIF: Okay?

LOTTIE: So you just wrote these magazine editorials and then “poof” we have a holiday?

SARAH: No, no. I wrote letters to five separate president, including our mutual friend Polk.

GIF: Who?

LOTTIE & SARAH: The 11th President of the United States!

LOTTIE: Why doesn’t anyone ever remember Polk?

SARAH: Probably because he wasn’t the President to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

LOTTIE: Who did?

SARAH: Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

LOTTIE: Oh my god! Was he as cute as he is in pictures?

SARAH: Lottie, you wouldn’t believe it. So tall, so honest…

GIF: Can we get back to the topic at hand, please?

LOTTIE: Oh right, so Abraham Lincoln declared this fake event a national holiday because....

SARAH: Well, America had just gotten through the Civil War. I wrote Abe telling him this was a chance to bring the North and the South together to celebrate patriotism and patch up the wounds left by the battle.

LOTTIE: Did it work?

SARAH: You tell me: Are the North and South unified in your time?


GIF: No.

LOTTIE: People are always fighting on Twitter.

GIF: And in the news.

LOTTIE: And basically everywhere all the time.

SARAH: Sounds like Thanksgiving is just what the country needs.

LOTTIE: I guess so.

SARAH: Anger is overrated. At your dinner this Thanksgiving, tell your family you appreciate them. It’ll go a long way.

LOTTIE: Thanks, Sarah.

GIF: Did you really write Mary Had a Little Lamb?

SARAH: I did. Want to sing it with me before I go?

LOTTIE: Let’s do it!

[Mary Had a Little Lamb]


GIF: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Time Turners.

LOTTIE: Stay tuned for a Christmas special.

GIF: And don’t forget to donate on our Patreon!

LOTTIE: See you in the future!