Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman

Jay Owen Books and Reviews

by Melanie Kirkpatrick, Encounter Books (2021)

Book Review by Hazel Henderson

©Hazel Henderson 2021

“I enjoyed this book immensely, even though I am well aware of its conservative backers at the Hudson Institute and that Encounter Books, also publishes many unsavory books with far-right ideological positions.  We are today, in need of finding common ground to overcome the divisive “red-blue“ artificially fomented politics of polarization to gain power, as I explained in my “Reframing the Politics of Polarization“.

The book’s subject, Sarah Josepha Hale, nevertheless, was an extraordinary woman of her time and made many contributions to the public debates and politics in the 1800s in the USA.  The fact that she has remained obscured was due, no doubt to her initial opposition to voting rights for women, even though she championed all their economic and social rights. She thought that women were morally-superior to men, and thus should not get into politics and money in elective struggles, except as candidate for school boards. This view also led to her championing of the role of women as mothers guiding their children’s moral development and their heavy work maintaining households and farms of the day.   These aspects of Sarah Josepha Hale’s advocacy in no way diminish all her other achievement, particularly as the first woman editor of a nationally-distributed literary magazine, delivered in those days by stagecoach!   Her abiding passion was for education for all, I subject dear to my heart as in my “Education As Investment“, (2005).

So I hope women enjoy learning more about this forgotten leader, even though I am sure that author, Melanie Kirkpatrick’s conservative promoters will be using this book to undermine the democratic agenda I support, including creating at last, the country’s long-needed infrastructure of care-giving, paid family-leave, childcare and early education, (all supported by Sarah J. Hale), which are standard in all other advanced societies.

I’m sure this book, which is a deeply-researched contribution to our history, speaks to women deeply—across all political divides. It will also be promoted by conservatives to buttress the shrinking male-dominated nuclear family and traditional female roles. Other white nationalists whose fears of displacement by our continually diversifying population will also no doubt promote this book. These fears are unfounded by the realities described by  demographers: that white Americans keep marrying and pro-creating with immigrant women, most recently with Hispanics and Asians!

So, in these perilous times for our young, still experimental democracy, I hope we can rise above parties and factionalism, to recognize yesterday’s and today’s brave women—and all citizens from all parts of our society who make so many contributions to our future.

Hazel Henderson, Editor “