Thanksgiving, like most American holidays, has been depicted in masculine terms: The historic vision of colonial New Englander Miles Standish, with musket in one hand and a ''tom'' turkey in the other, comes to mind. In fact the formal Thanksgiving celebrated in late November is the accomplishment of one woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned long and hard for the holiday, mostly from Philadelphia.
Mrs. Hale was not born in the city of brotherly love. A New Englander, she grew up in the years following the end of the American Revolution. In an age when men were the only recipients of a formal education, she received some intellectual rudiments from her mother and from a brother who attended Dartmouth. At the age of 25, she married David Hale, a lawyer, and in quick succession bore five children. When her husband suddenly died just eight years after her marriage, Mrs. Hale was faced with the bleakest financial prospects for her family.
So she developed that aspect of her abilities that she felt had both promise and personal enjoyment - writing - a career that was rock-strewn for a woman, in large part because it was identified with the production of feminist literature. Mrs. Hale was no feminist, as illustrated by the poetry and novel that she published in the early 1820s. But she persevered in her writing, finally acquiring in 1828 a secure position as editor of Ladies Magazine, published in Boston.