Sunday, November 12, 2006

Little Know Thanksgiving Facts


In the 19th Century, Lydia Maria Child became known as an outspoken abolitionist, a women’s rights crusader, Indian rights activist, novelist, journalist, and was a pioneer in children's literature. But she is known today primarily by a poem she wrote in 1844, "A Boy's Thanksgiving Day." The poem was set to music and became the Thanksgiving song we know today as "Over the River and Through the Woods."

No one knows who wrote the melody.

Child was born in 1802 and became a well-known Unitarian author and editor.

When Child began writing, there was virtually nothing published especially for children. In 1826 she started the first children's magazine, Juvenile Miscellany, a tiny paper periodical she edited, writing many of the didactic little stories herself. The publication enjoyed wide support for nearly ten years.

In early 1833, she was named America's pre-eminent woman writer. Her successful literary career came to an abrupt end that same year when she published “An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans”, often cited as the first antislavery book. In it she reviewed the history of slavery. She insisted that slavery had an evil impact on both slave and slaveholder, and she outraged her Boston friends by describing Northerners' prejudice against blacks and the segregation that existed in Northern cities. As a result, subscriptions to Juvenile Miscellany were cancelled and Child was forced to resign as editor. Her readers stopped buying her books. The Boston Athenaeum trustees revoked her library privileges. Nevertheless, long before Harriet Beecher Stowe's “Uncle Tom's Cabin” was published, Child's book won many converts to the antislavery cause.

"An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans" argued in favor of the immediate emancipation of the slaves, and she is sometimes said to have been the first white person to have written a book in support of this policy.

In 1839, she was elected to the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and became editor of the society's National Anti-Slavery Standard in 1841. In 1861, Child helped Harriet Ann Jacobs, with her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

During the 1860s, Child wrote pamphlets on Indian rights. The most prominent, "An appeal for the Indians" (1868), called upon government officials, as well as religious leaders, to bring justice to American Indians. Her presentation sparked Peter Cooper's interest in Indian issues, and led to the founding of the United States Indian Commission and the subsequent Peace Policy in the administration of Ulysses S. Grant.

She died in Wayland, Massachusetts in 1880 at the age of 78.

Here are the lyrics to "Over the River and Through the Woods"

Over the river and thru the wood,
To grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Thru the white and drifted snow, oh!

Over the river and thru 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 woods,
To have a first-rate play;
Oh hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thangsgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods,
Trot fast my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods,
And straight through the barn-yard gate,
We seem to go
Extremely slow
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the woods,
Now grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


Blogger X. Dell said...

Ms. Child sounds like the kind of woman that I would have like to have met. I just read an article somewhere about the Emancipation movement in Massachusettes, and how slaves used torts to gain freedom. It seems, sometimes, that MA has always kinda been in the forefront of racial animosity--from the Salem race riots of th 1670s to the anti-bussing mobs of the 1970s.

12:25 AM CST  
Blogger Betty S said...

Me too. I would have enjoyed spending a Thanksgiving at her grandmother's house, eating pumpkin pie and discussing her life and the issues of the day.

I think your observation about them being in the heat of so many protests agains discrimination is an interesting one. Perhaps it is because of those experiences that they are one of the more liberal states in the union today.

8:33 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think her mission was good, but her delivery caused her many problems. Like a lot of history, the story isn't completely presented. She was originally invited to the Boston Athenaeum, but caused disturbances that upset paying members. She was a difficult person unless you were in complete agreement with her. Remember, we are judging by today's values and in the 1800's she was a pain in the butt.

2:13 PM CST  
Blogger X. Dell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:58 PM CST  
Blogger X. Dell said...

Anonymous, values haven't changed. The ability to hold those values to account has.

7:59 PM CST  
Blogger Betty S said...

I think anyone who bucks agains the current accepted standard can be viewed by others as a pain in the but. Bottom line is, she was right. Native Americans are humans who need to be treated with equality and women deserve equal rights. I imagine she did raise a runkus. If she hadn't been a thorn in their flesh, nothing would have ever changed. "The squeeky wheel gets the grease," etc.

9:59 AM CST  

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