SARAH JOSEPHA HALE, 1788-1879
In the Sterling town center stand a statue of a Mary’s little lamb, representing the famous nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The original poem by Sarah Josepha Hale was inspired by an actual event in Sterling, Massachusetts. Young Mary Sawyer, on the suggestion of her brother, took her pet lamb to school. As one would imagine, it created quite a commotion, which was then immortalized in the poem.
The Redstone School, where the lamb visited one day, was moved from Sterling to a churchyard on the property of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
In 1877 Hale’s poem became famous for being the first speech recorded on Thomas Edison’s newly invented phonograph. Edison himself later reenacted the recording in 1827, which still survives. The first recording was recovered in 2012 by 3D imaging equipment.
Sarah Josepha Hale is also considered the person most responsible for Thanksgiving. Her advocacy lasted 17 years before it was successful. She had written to five presidents with Lincoln being the one to establish it as a national holiday in 1863.