How Mrs. Claus embodied 19th-century debates about women’s rights

Nineteenth-century writers, journalists and artists were quick to fill in details about Santa that Moore’s poem left out: a toy workshop, a home at the North Pole and a naughty-or-nice list. They also decided that Santa Claus wasn’t a bachelor; he was married to Mrs. Claus.

Yet scholars tend to overlook the evolution of Santa Claus’ spouse. You’ll see brief references to a handful of late-19th-century Mrs. Claus poems – especially Katharine Lee Bates’ 1888 “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.”

But as I discovered when I began work on a class about Christmas in literature, the writers who created Mrs. Claus were not just interested in filling in the blanks of Santa’s personal life. The poems and stories about Mrs. Claus that appeared in newspapers and popular periodicals spoke to women’s central role in the Christmas holiday. The character also provided a canvas to explore contemporary debates about gender and politics.

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