Sarah Josepha Hale

A Brief Biography for Sarah Josepha Hale

SARAH JOSEPHA HALE (1788-1879) was born in Newport, New Hampshire, daughter of a tavern keeper, and educated by her mother and brother. She ran a school from 1806 to 1813, then married a lawyer, David Hale, who gave her the equivalent of a college education.

Widowed with five children in 1822, she turned to literary activity for income. The success of her novel Northwood (1827) led to her becoming editor of Ladies' Magazine of Boston in 1828. In 1837, this journal merged into Godey's Lady's Book of Philadelphia.

Hale's editorship (1837-1877) made her one of the most influential American women of the mid-nineteenth century, an arbiter of taste in dress, architecture, and literature, and a publicist for women's education, women's property rights, professions for women, early childhood education, public health, and other progressive causes. Yet she opposed suffrage and women's public speaking.

Hale promoted American women writers through Godey's and other channels. Her writings include Poems for Our Children (1830); Flora's Interpreter, or, The American Book of Flowers and Sentiments, which ran to fourteen editions; Three Hours; or, The Vigil of Love: and Other Poems (1848); and Woman's Record (1854), an encyclopedia of distinguished women throughout history, with the largest part devoted to living American women writers.

Hale also published etiquette books and cookbooks and edited the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Madame de Sévigné.

Janet Gray, Princeton University