Santa's Whiskers

Mrs. Claus

Twenty-six years after the initial publication of Moore’s poem, and ten 
years before Nast created a universal visual image for Santa Claus,
a wife ​for Santa was mentioned by James Rees, a Philadelphia based
Christian missionary who wrote a short story in 1849 entitled: “A
Christmas Legend”.

In the story, it is Christmas Eve and an old man and woman, both
carrying a bundle on the back, are given shelter in a poor family’s
home as weary travelers. Mysteriously the next morning there are
Christmas presents for the poor family and the old travelers reveal
that they are a young couple: ​“we now appear, not as old Santa Claus
and his wife, but as we are, the mere actors of this pleasing farce.”
(John Rees, Mysteries of City Life, Philadelphia: J. W. Moore Publishing,

Mrs. Claus was also mentioned by name in the pages of the Yale
Literary Magazine in 1851, where the student author (whose name
is given only as “A.B.”) reflects on the Christmas of the previous year
in an essay entitled: “Holiday Week” (referencing the week between
Christmas and New Year). Unable to go home for the holidays, the
author accepted the invitation of a fellow student to spend the
holidays with his family in New York: “After Christmas dinner,
guests assembled and a small decorated tree was brought in.
There appeared near by the tree an old man with bent form and
a cane [whom we later learn is Father Time]. Suddenly, in bounded
that jolly, fat and funny old elf, Santa Claus. His array was
indescribably fantastic. He seemed to have done his best; and we
should think, had Mrs. Santa Claus to help him.” (Yale Literary
​Magazine, December 1851, pp. 81-88) id=IbEgAAAAMAAJ&printsec=title

An 1854 account of a Christmas musicale (dance) at the State
Lunatic Asylum in Utica, New York where the men were brought
together in the women’s room for a dance includes the
participation of Mrs. Claus. During a pause in the festivities “the
ringing of a bell announced the approach of Mrs. Santa Claus
and her baby – and with great joy they were greeted, and her
Ladyship joined in the dance; and committed to our care the
sweet baby – and we kissed it. But being a bachelor transferred
it over to Mrs. Santa Claus . . . After Mrs. Santa Claus had
performed some fine revolutions to the tune of a representative
of her husband – danced a la mode Christmas.” (from The Opal:
A Monthly Periodical of the State Lunatic Asylum, Vol. 4, Utica,
​New York, 1854, p. 27) id=l8
&dq=%22mrs.+santa%22+date:1600 1878&lr=lang_en&num=20

The “Editor’s Easy Chair” essay, in Harper’s Magazine of 1862,
included a comparison of a rich lady who provides a Christmas
tree to poor children to Mrs. Santa Claus. It talks of the delight
when a group of kids opened the door and first saw the
Christmas tree, and how that shows that Christmas is not the
purchasing of expensive gifts. “And if we were so, how much
more so the kind genius of the tree! Not the little cherub up
aloft, but she who put him there – she who for so many hours
and so many days had been industriously and ingeniously
designing and working to please us all. Whether any of us
looked at her with secret awe, believing and working to please
us all. Whether any of us looked at her with secret awe,
believing that we beheld Mrs. Santa Claus herself, we have
never told. But surely she provides a merry Christmas for
herself who makes so many children of every age happy.”
(“Harper’s Magazine,” Vol. 24, p. 411, December 1861 – May,

In 1864 there is a glimpse of Mrs. Claus’s appearance in the comic novel “The Metropolites” by Robert St. Clar. She appears in a woman’s dream wearing “Hessian high boots, a dozen of short, red petticoats, an old, large, straw bonnet,” and bringing the woman a large selection of finery to wear.

In 1878 a woman who may or may not be Mrs. Claus
appeared in the children’s book “Lill In Santa Claus
Land And Other Stories” by Ellis Towne, Sophie May
and Ella Farman, published in Boston. In her story
Lill describes her imaginary visit to Santa’s office:

“There was a lady sitting by a golden desk, writing in
a large book, and Santa Claus was looking through
a great telescope, and every once in a while he
stopped and put his ear to a large speaking-tube.

Presently he said to the lady, ‘Put down a good mark
for Sarah Buttermilk. I see she is trying to conquer her
​quick temper.’

‘Two bad ones for Isaac Clappertongue; he’ll drive his mother to the insane asylum yet.’

Later, Lill’s sister Elfie ponders the tale she has heard: “Elfie sat back in the chair to think. She wished Lill had found out how many black marks she had, and whether that lady was Mrs. Santa Claus.”

A much more complete description of Mrs. Claus appeared in E.C. Gardner’s article “A Hickory Backlog” in the Good Housekeeping Magazine of 1887:

“She was dressed for traveling and for cold weather. Her hood
was large and round and red but not smooth, - it was
corrugated; that is to say, it consisted of a series of rolls nearly
as large as my arm, passing over her head sidewise, growing
smaller toward the back until they terminated in a big button
that was embellished with a knot of green ribbon. Its general
appearance was not unlike that of the familiar, pictorial
beehive except that the rolls were not arranged spirally. The
broad white ruffle of her lace cap projected several inches
beyond the front of the hood and waved back and forth like
the single leaves of a great white poppy as she nodded
emphatically in her discourse.

​Her outer garment was a bright ​colored plaid worsted cloak
​reaching to within about six inches of the floor. Its size was
most voluminous, but its fashion was extremely simple. It had
​a wide yoke across the shoulders, into which the broad into
​which the broad plain breadths were gathered; and it was fastened at the throat by a huge ornamented brass hook and eye, from which hung a short chain of round twisted links. Her right arm protruded through a vertical slit at the side of the cloak and she held in her hand a sheet of paper covered with figures. The left arm on which she carried a large basket or bag – I couldn’t tell which – was hidden by the ample folds of the garment. Her countenance was keen and nervous, but benignant.” (E.C. Gardner, “A Hickory Backlog”, Good Housekeeping, January 22, 1887, p. 125);rgn=full%20text;idno=6417403_1298_007;view=image;seq=5

Mrs. Claus made her most active appearance in Katherine Lee
Bates’s 1889 poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.” The
word “goody” is short for “goodwife” or “Mrs.”

Most famous for her poem “America the Beautiful”, Katherine
Lee Bates introduced a much more assertive Mrs. Claus than
had appeared previously. She wants to ride in Santa’s sleigh
with him and she mounts a series of arguments to get her way.
She does the cooking, takes care of the Christmas trees, makes
sure the candies and toys are completed, while he sits
comfortably from December to December. All she wants is to
ride in his sleigh on Christmas Eve and make a trip down a
chimney. And, of course, by the end of the poem she gets her
way. Katherine Lee Bates, Goody Santa Claus, Boston: Lothrop
Company, 1889)