Virginia O'Hanlon

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Laura Virginia Douglas (O'Hanlon)

Also Known As: "Santa's Friend", "Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus"
Birthplace: of 115 West 95th Street, New York, New York , New York, United States
Death: Died in Valatie, Columbia, New York, United States
Place of Burial: North Chatham, Columbia, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Dr. Philip F. O'Hanlon and Laura Lincoln O'Hanlon
Ex-wife of Edward Douglas
Mother of Laura Virginia Douglas

Occupation: Educator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Virginia O'Hanlon

In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia of 115 West 95th Street, bothered by friends who kept telling her there was no such thing as Santa, wrote a letter to The New York Sun. “Papa says ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” she wrote. The response, an unsigned editorial published on Sept. 21, 1897, and written by a former Civil War correspondent who never had children of his own, Francis P. Church, was both an exploration and an affirmation of the nature of faith and belief.

“Alas! how dreary would be the world,” Mr. Church wrote, “if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.” He added: “Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”


From Wikipedia Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Virginia O'Hanlon's full married name was Laura Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas. She was born on July 20, 1889, in Manhattan, New York. Her marriage to Edward Douglas in the 1910s was brief, and ended with him deserting her shortly before their daughter, Laura, was born. She was listed as divorced in the 1930 United States Census.

Virginia received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910, a Master's degree in education from Columbia University in 1912, and a doctorate from Fordham University. She was a school teacher in the New York City ISD. She started her career as an educator in 1912, became a junior principal in 1935, and retired in 1959.

Virginia received a steady stream of mail about her letter throughout her life. She would include a copy of the editorial in her replies. In an interview later in life, she credited it with shaping the direction of her life quite positively.

Virginia died on May 13, 1971, in a nursing home in Valatie, New York. She is buried at the Chatham Rural Cemetery in North Chatham, New York.

From To Virginia’s Family, Yes, Santa Claus Is Still Real By MANNY FERNANDEZ. Published: December 24, 2010. The New York Times

"Their great-great-grandmother was a true New Yorker. Miss O’Hanlon had an apartment in Greenwich Village. She loved baseball. She always dressed up, donning high heels and pearls. She took Jim Temple, her grandson, to his first movie and showed him how to use the subway ...."

In December 2012, radio station WGNA-FM in Albany, NY secured a never before published photo of Virginia finally meeting Santa on Christmas Eve 1969, two years before her death:

"In 1959, Miss O’Hanlon retired from the New York City school system after spending 43 years as a teacher and principal. In December 1969, she was hospitalized for heart trouble in Hudson, N.Y. She had been living at the time with her daughter in North Chatham, a nearby rural hamlet."

"That Christmas Eve, Santa Claus, in the form of one John Harms, visited Miss O’Hanlon — her full married name was Laura Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas — and other patients at Columbia Memorial Hospital."

"“I gave her a kiss on the cheek,” Mr. Harms told a reporter.

  • * “She told me she still believes in Santa Claus.”"


  1. Wikipedia
  2. 1900 United States Federal Census (see attached)
  3. 1910 United States Federal Census (see attached)
  4. 1920 United States Federal Census (see attached)
  5. 1930 United States Federal Census (see attached)
  6. 1940 United States Federal Census (see attached)
  7. Virginia O'Hanlon, Santa's Friend, Dies; Virginia O'Hanlon Dead at 81; Special to The New York Times (); May 14, 1971.
  8. Find A Grave Memorial# 10184308 note: as of Dec 2013, there are 500 "flowers" left for Virginia.
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Virginia O'Hanlon's Timeline

July 20, 1889
New York, New York , New York, United States
Age 25
New York, United States
May 13, 1971
Age 81
Valatie, Columbia, New York, United States