Yet as Hale understood, women can be instrumental in shaping the country outside of their direct participation in government or the workforce.
Much has changed since Sarah Hale’s time. Women are now more likely than men to attain a college degree. Women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers, and today account for a majority of professional and managerial workers. In 2010, more women ran for public office than ever before in our nation’s history. It's commonplace to see women holding some of the highest positions in the land—from Secretary of State to Governor or Senator—and Americans generally realize that it's just a matter of time before we have the first woman in the White House.
Yet women's influence is under-estimated if you fixate solely on the tally of statistics of how many women have this title or hold that elected office. The grassroots Tea Party movement, arguably the most important political movement in a generation, has been largely led by women. Women like Sarah Palin, though currently not holding a seat or office in government, garner constant media attention, draw rock-star crowds, and help serve as party king-makers.
And while it can be easy to belittle in today's high-powered times, American women's greatest influence remains in the home. A growing number of households are officially headed by women, and regardless of marital status, women still make the vast majority of consumption decisions and allocate the family budget. They care for their parents and often the parents of their spouse, and they take on the lion’s share of childrearing duties. In doing so, they assume the responsibility of instilling moral values in the next generation.
This role, although derided by many modern feminists as powerless and low, will have the most lasting impact on our nation.
This holiday season, we can all give thanks for the guidance of great American women in our history - like Sarah Hale - who are often under-celebrated for their contributions, but who nonetheless have shaped the direction of our country.
And we can more keenly appreciate the influence of similarly situated American women today, who quietly and thanklessly continue to feed our families, make our homes, vote, write and build political coalitions, and in so doing, shape our nation.