Mrs Claus: The overlooked Christmas icon
Popularized as the saviour of Christmas and yearned by children throughout the world, the legends and miracles of Santa Claus are far and wide known. But someone who is greatly overshadowed, and only came to recognition in 1849 as a character in “A Christmas Legend,” by James Rees, is Santa Claus’s faithful wife, Mrs Claus. Known by many names throughout history— Amelia, Jessica, Mary, Anna, Goody— Mrs Claus has always played the role of a hardworking and faithful wife, who aided her husband by cooking, cleaning and sewing as Christmas approached. The character, however, provided a canvas to explore contemporary debates about gender and a reflection of women in the society, thus establishing herself trivial in a patriarchal society.
Christmas in 19th-century depended on women’s essential and exhausting time and labor: Women prepared family celebrations, organized community and church events and worked in industries that fed seasonal demand for cards, toys and clothing. Many literary depictions of Mrs. Claus paid tribute to her long hours, practical know-how and managerial skills. Sara Conant’s 1875 short story “Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus,” celebrated these efforts by describing Mrs. Claus working alongside women across America. In Ada Shelton’s 1885 story “In Santa Claus Land,” Santa acknowledged his debt to Mrs. Claus: Without her hard work, he could “never get through” the Christmas season.
Still, in most Mrs. Claus literature, Santa traveled the world filling stockings while Mrs. Claus stayed home to await his return. In 1884’s “Mrs. Santa Claus Asserts Herself,” Sarah J. Burke’s tearful Mrs. Claus, ignored by Santa and his fans, is left to “cower alone” clasping the fingers she’d “worked to the bone” as Santa speeds off on his sleigh.
Across centuries, Mrs Claus was denied her own voice, an accurate description of the misogynistic gaze that house-working females are often viewed through. It was Katherine Lee Bates who transformed Mrs. Santa Claus into a woman with a mind and personality of her own in her 1889 poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride”, where she introduced a much more assertive Mrs. Santa Claus than had appeared in previous literature. Goody Santa Claus, used her wifely wiles to convince Santa Claus to take her along on his Christmas Eve sleigh ride to pay her back for tending the Christmas trees, the Thanksgiving turkeys, and the chickens that laid Easter eggs. She asked him, “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 showed a strong feminist facet of her personality again in a 1996 television musical called Mrs. Santa Claus, who in 1910, no longer felt the magic of being married to Santa Claus and decided to take charge of her own life, tired of feeling neglected and lonely at the remote North Pole and weary of living in Santa’s shadow.
In conclusion, we need to start looking at Mrs Claus as a feminist icon and not a regressive side piece. Despite the fact that it was Santa Claus that received all the praise for the work, it was Mrs Claus that had contributed equally, if not more. That she did not get due credit for it is only a mirror of societal thoughts the patriarchy upholds.