Mrs. Burke prepares Thanksgiving Dinner

Hanging on the wall at the Portsmouth Historical Society is a painting of Mrs. Burke cooking Thanksgiving Dinner.  Sarah Eddy was the painter and this particular painting was our introduction to this Portsmouth artist and philanthropist.  What is unusual about the “Thanksgiving Dinner” is that there is no turkey.  There is pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, breads and vegetables.  This would be a tradition with Miss Eddy because she was a vegetarian.  When Susan B. Anthony came to Bristol Ferry to have her portrait painted, she wrote that the neighbors sent over “roast beef for Sarah’s cannibal friends.”

In researching Sarah, I have come across an interesting article from the New York Times from 1902.  Sarah was part of a Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by the New York Vegetarian Club. The article began with a statement that:  “A live and very lively turkey bearing over his head a placard, ‘I Am Safe Here’ was the feature of the decorations..”  The poor turkey was behind a “strong wire netting for protection” but wasn’t calm until the dessert plates were cleared and “he settled down quietly with what seemed to be a feeling that his turn was not coming next.”  Among the courses were mushroom soup, cranberry sauce, pineapple and celery cream salad and raspberry ice cream.

Sarah would attend another “Thanksgiving Dinner” when Rhode Island finally passed the Federal Suffrage Amendment on January 6, 1920.  Sarah Eddy was among those celebrating at the victory dinner.  Turkey was served, but I imagine Sarah did not partake of that main course.