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  Sarah Josepha Hale


On line references for Sarah Josepha Hale

1.  Godey's Lady Book website

2.  Sarah Josepha Hale and the Godey Girls

3.  Selected Poetry of Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

4.  Women Writers

5.  Wikipedia


Living History at National Landmarks

Championing an Unsung Hero   Bunker Hill National Monument 

by Abby Goodnough

BOSTON — Richard Tourangeau, a veteran ranger at the Bunker Hill Monument, dutifully answers a daily torrent of questions about the famous battle that unfolded there. But he would much rather talk about Sarah Josepha Hale.

Mrs. Hale was a 19th-century magazine editor who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” lobbied to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and made sure the 221-foot obelisk that commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill got built. She is something of an obsession for Mr. Tourangeau, below, a blunt 63-year-old who sent red roses to Mrs. Hale’s grave on her birthday last year.

“It’s mind-boggling what this woman was able to do,” Mr. Tourangeau said last week from his post beside the monument, whose spiral staircase leads 294 steps up to a heady view of Boston and its harbor, though it will close this summer for repairs.

Mr. Tourangeau is not one for climbing those stairs; when he is not relaying highlights of the 1775 battle — how the British won, for example, and that bit about the whites of their eyes — he seeks to shine a light on Mrs. Hale.

The partly built monument was languishing, and the men behind it were out of cash, when Mrs. Hale stepped in. It was 1840, and her magazine, Godey's Lady's Book,  was a national sensation.

Mrs. Hale, whom Mr. Tourangeau calls “ Oprah and Martha Stewart combined,” organized a giant craft fair at Quincy Market, exhorting readers to donate to help get the obelisk built. They did, and the fair raised over $30,000, more than enough to get the project moving again and finished by 1843.

Mr. Tourangeau bristles at the oft-repeated tale — “So ridiculous,” he said — that the $30,000 came from a bake sale. Refreshments were sold, he said, but they brought only a fraction of the profit.

“I had to convince some of the bus tour guides to stop talking that up,” he said. “It’s kind of a put-down, really. Like, ‘Oh, women can only bake.’ ”

Like Fenway Park and Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill is a must-see for Boston tourists. They came in droves the other day: children in tricorn hats, a high school group from Oregon and a tour group on Segways, to name a few. But Mr. Tourangeau, who has worked for the National Park Service here for 26 years, is selective in mentioning Mrs. Hale.

“You’ve got to know who you’re talking to,” he said, conceding that his passion glazes the eyes of battle fanatics. Get him started, though — mentioning the bake sale is a sure way — and you might find yourself rapt.

“Sarah was an amazing person from any perspective,” Mr. Tourangeau said. “She’s got to get her due.”

New York Times, July 4, 2010

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Copyright L. Cantor 2010