"Mary Had A Little Lamb" is a famous nursery rhyme; unlike many such ditties it is not particular ancient, nor does it have any sinister connotations
- as for example "Ring Around the Rosie
" - and it has a very precise origin.
Although it is widely believed to be an English rhyme, "Mary Had A Little Lamb" was actually written by an American schoolteacher turned novelist and magazine editor. Sarah Josephina Hale (1788-1879) was born in New Hampshire, and published the nursery rhyme in May 1830, although it appears to have been written sometime before. It was inspired by a young girl named Mary Sawyer who took her pet lamb to school at the suggestion of her brother.
It is possible though not confirmed that part of the poem was written by John Roulstone, who visited the school at that time. Roulstone was studying for the ministry, and the purpose of his contribution - if any - may have been to add a spiritual or a moral dimension.
The music was added later by Lowel Mason. A statute representing the lamb was erected in Sterling Massachusetts, the home of Mary Sawyer.