Sarah Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788 and grew up, like most people of her time, on a farm. Her early life was marked by repeated tragedies: deaths, her father's failed business venture. But while she was young, Sarah also opened and operated a school, teaching for seven years until her marriage to David Hale in 1813. David was a model husband and father and active participant in his community. He and Sarah had five children together before his sudden death in 1822.
Being widowed at thirty-four proved to be the shaping event of Sarah's life. She wore black, in mourning, for the rest of her life. She tried to provide for herself and her children by going into millinery with a relative, but that venture failed. Sarah was also a prolific writer, however, and parlayed that into income through submissions to periodicals and literary contests, self-publishing a book of her poetry, and writing a successful novel.
On the basis of that success, Sarah was invited by Reverend Blake, an Episcopalian minister in Boston, to edit a magazine he intended to found for young ladies. The offer was unexpected, but Sarah took it on immediately, and the Ladies Magazine was a success within its first few issues.
The Ladies Magazine differed from its competitors as it was the only one being written and edited by a woman, for women. The magazine was much higher in original content than any other in publication at the time, and the lion's share of the material was written by Sarah herself, with contributions of poetry and fiction from other women.
The primary messages that the Ladies Magazine gave to its readers were to be better wives, mothers, daughters, and housekeepers. Women were advised to be moral, virtuous, pious, pure, and free from frivolity. Women were encouraged to exert their influence over their husbands in a subtle and quiet manner, so as not to seem to be trying to take any of his authority as a man.