Approximately 42 million Americans are expected to take a road trip this Thanksgiving. So if you’re one of them and plan to go “over the river and through the wood” to anyone’s house tomorrow, you should know that this famed line was originally written in 1844 as part of a Thanksgiving Day poem, not a Christmas song. What’s more… its author was a truly extraordinary Woman You Should Know for far more than this.
Meet Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880) who “ranks among the most influential of nineteenth-century American women writers. She was renowned in her day as a tireless crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society” – especially Native Americans, slaves, and women.
Lydia was renowned in her day as a tireless crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society – especially Native Americans, slaves, and women.
A pioneer in several literary genres, “Lydia wrote one of the earliest American historical novels, the first comprehensive history of American slavery, and the first comparative history of women. In addition, she edited the first American children’s magazine, compiled an early primer for the freed slaves, and published the first book designed for the elderly.” As such, she was also one of the earliest American women to earn a living from her writing.
Trivia: Lydia’s original Thanksgiving poem, which we have in its entirety below, was eventually set to a tune by some unknown person. The more modern song version, now considered a Christmas classic, includes alternate lyrics about Christmas.
The New-England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day
(a.k.a. Over The River and Through the Wood)