Founded in 1830 by Louis A. Godey, Godey's Lady's Book, was one of the most popular and long-lived women's magazines. Each issue included fiction, non-fiction, poetry, advice on interior decorating, fashion and domestic arts, instructions for needlework and handicrafts, and music. The magazine evolved into an important literary magazine and published articles, book reviews, etc. by many notable nineteenth-century writers including Edgar Allan Poe.
Godey's Lady's Book continued to flourish throughout the Civil War under the long editorship of Mrs. Sarah Hale, but by 1877, Louis Godey sold the magazine and Mrs. Hale retired. The magazine was purchased by several owners and in 1898 ended its 68 year existence.
The success of Godey's Lady's Book was due to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, editor until 1877, when she retired. Mrs. Hale, known as "the lady editor," had, from 1828-1836, published the American Ladies' Magazine and Literary Gazette where her editorial mandate was "...to provide quality material to benefit and educate the female reader." In 1836, the American Ladies' Magazine and Literary Gazette merged with Godey's Lady's Book and Mrs. Hale continued to edit the magazine from her home in Boston. In 1840, she relocated to Philadelphia. Just prior to the Civil War, Mrs. Hale had built the Godey's Lady's Book subscription list to more than 150,000, the largest circulation attained by any monthly magazine at that time.
In addition to her editorship of the magazine, Mrs. Hale was an early advocate of women's rights. She argued for the retention of property rights by married women; started the first day nursery; helped organize Vassar College; and worked for the advancement of women's wages, better working conditions for women, and the reduction of child labor. She was also the author of twenty-four books and numerous poems, including the nursery rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
One of the most popular features of Godey's Lady's Book was the La Belle Assemble; each month, beautifully illustrated hand-colored fashion plates depicting the latest in women's fashions were published. More than 150 women were employed to hand tint the plates for each issue. Black and white steel and copper engravings were also used to illustrate the published articles.