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Mrs. Claus’ Wellesley Connection

Wellesley College Alumna Katharine Lee Bates is best known as the author of “America the Beautiful;" she is also the person credited with making Mrs. Claus a figure in popular culture.

Mrs. Claus is a woman who wears many hats (not just the red one with the fuzzy white trim) -- she supervises the elves, helps Santa respond to letters, bakes cookies, makes toys and prepares presents for delivery. She is such a big part of the Christmas story that sometimes we may forget that she wasn’t always a central figure – in fact, if it weren’t for one Wellesley College alumna, Mrs. Claus (as we know her today) might not exist.

In 1889, Katharine Lee Bates (Wellesley College class of 1880 and former member of the English faculty) wrote Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.* Bates, who is perhaps best known for being the author of America the Beautiful (and, around here, for sharing her name with an elementary school) is credited with popularizing Mrs. Claus in American pop culture through this poem.

In Bates’ poem, Goody (meaning Mrs.) Claus asks Santa to take her along on his Christmas Eve sleigh-ride as a reward for all the work she does throughout the year: "Santa, must I tease in vain, dear? Let me go and hold the reindeer, While you clamber down the chimneys. Don't look at me with such a smirk! Why should you have all the glory of the joyous Christmas story, And poor little Goody Santa Claus have nothing but the work?"

Mrs. Claus points out that she tends the Christmas trees (where toys and treats grow) and even looks after the Thanksgiving turkeys and the rainbow chickens that lay eggs for Easter. It takes some convincing, but Santa finally agrees – and it’s a good thing he does too – because Santa finds that the stocking in one poor little boy’s house has too many holes in it to hold a present. Mrs. Claus heads down the chimney and mends the threadbare stocking herself (using an icicle for a needle and a moonbeam for thread) and leaves the boy his gift. (Quick thinking with the moonbeam there, eh? A credit, I’ll presume, to the ingenuity of Wellesley Women!)

Bates often wrote about women’s struggles. She wrote Mrs. Claus as a strong women equal to her husband and, today, they’re still a team – which is fortunate for all of us because I don’t think there’s any way Santa could do it alone :) 

On behalf of our team here at Wellesley College, we wish you a very happy holiday season! (Click the link to view our holiday card – music composed by May-Elise Martinsen '12 and performed by Wellesley students).  

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* The poem linked above is a shortened, edited version from the Falmouth Historical Society. Katharine Lee Bates and her family lived in Falmouth until she was 5, when they moved to the area now known as Wellesley Hills. The full text of the poem can be found here: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Poetry/Goody_Santa_Claus/goody_santa_claus.htm

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