A Thanksgiving History of Women's Rights

When Lydia Maria Child, penned the Thanksgiving poem in 1844 that begins…

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandmother’s house we go

…she was the best-known woman writer in America. A prolific author of novels and books on household management and the raising of children, Child was editor of the first children’s magazine in the United States, the financially successful Juvenile Miscellany. Child was also a strong abolitionist and women’s rights supporter.

While Child immortalized Thanksgiving in her poem, it was Sarah Josepha Hale, inventor of the term “domestic science” and editor for 40 years of the immensely popular Godey’s Lady’s Book who we can thank for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. After a seventeen-year campaign targeting five presidents, she finally convinced Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to unify the October to January dates celebrated by the various states into one established date.

And it was, of course, the original agriculturalists in this country – the indigenous women who planted the perfect crop of corn, beans, and squash from East to West, and North to South –who raised the crops and fed the Pilgrims the first year that non-native people celebrated the ancient Native tradition of Thanksgiving with their Native hosts. Without their generous – and uncelebrated – assistance, the Pilgrims would have starved.

As we give thanks tomorrow for all the privileges and joys in our lives, let us remember the women who paved the way. And we, at the Gage Foundation, thank you for your generous support that allows us to do our work.


Here are the rest of the original words to Child’s poem:

Over the river, and through the wood

To Grandmother’s house we go

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood-

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,

To have a first-rate play.

Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood

Trot fast, my dapple-gray!

Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,

For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood-

And straight through the barnyard gate,

We seem to go extremely slow,

It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood-

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


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