From the History Channel

Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day most commonly falls on the second Sunday in May and traditionally involves presenting mothers with flowers, cards, and other gifts.

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”

Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.


The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mothers’ Day.”

The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.

By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies.

Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists, and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

While versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated worldwide, traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.

Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. Families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores.

At times, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.


 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the article on Mothers Day. For SO many years I have been opposed and discussed by the enormous commercialism of Mother’s Day. So many generations have been guilted into buying flowers, cards etc for their Mom’s on one particular day of the year. I have two grown sons that let me know every day of the year how much they love me. It is not about the gifts, etc., it is about their actions as individuals. They are good, honest, hardworking men who show respect for others and have compasssion for people as well as animals, etc. they are not perfect humans, none of us are, but they honor me everyday and show their love for me everyday–no cards, flowers and gifts needed and no guilt for honoring my wish to ignore the holiday. My gift on Mothers Day is asking them to take a much needed day for themselves and enjoy! That makes Mom happy and to honor them because without them I wouldn’t even be a Mom!

  2. I want to wish all mother’s a very special and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! And I mean this sincerely, whether you are an actual mother, or an assumed mother, to your loved ones, whether they are two-footed loved ones, or four-footed loved ones, as I myself, I am not an actual mother to the two-footed human variety, but multiple ones of the four-footed pet variety, and if you say that is not the same, as to raising a child, well, it is to me, as that is all I ever knew…..and yet my pen name is Mama Mia, which stands for mama missing in action, in case you never knew….LOL

  3. I wish I could have placed flowers on my mother’s grave today, but it is so far away…about 500 miles one way……I have asked some of my family members to put them on my mother’s grave for me, out of state, and I would pay them to do the errand for me, and for the flowers they select, and I would send them the money in advance, pay for the gas out to the cemetery in advance, and pay them to go, and all I would get would be excuses. One family member did place some flowers for me one year, and I paid her, but found out she got them out there to the cemetery at about dark on Mother’s Day, as she had spent the day with her mom, and hadn’t even bought new flowers, but used some other ones from somewhere, but collected the good amount of money I sent her….so I didn’t ask her to do it again…. It is true, and it upsets me to even say this, as to how my family members are…. I did finally find one local florist up there, that delivered to cemeteries, as most don’t, and for several years I ordered the flowers from them, and paid with my credit card, and they kept getting higher and higher every year. One year, I went up there in June, which was when my mother’s birthday was, and I had ordered the flowers in May for Mother’s Day for her grave, and they were still there in June, but they were nothing like what I thought they would have looked like for the amount I spent, plus they were knocked over, and the red clay dry dirt of the cemetery was in a pile around the flowers, and the ants had made it there home…..an ant hill. After that I didn’t order any more…….does this still upset me? Oh yes, very much so………

  4. Now on a silly note, of the political type…..I want to wish the “mommy of the city council”, council woman, Megan Sladek, of the City of Oviedo City Council, a very HAPPY MOTHERS DAY, for being named the “mother or mommy of the city council” by some of the other members of the Oviedo….!!! Have you heard of, or read this absolutely hilarious carrying on by the Oviedo city council members? The Oviedo Mayor, Mayor Dominic Persampiere, was planning a trip to Washington DC, to go there with the Assistant City Manager, Patrick Kelly, of Oviedo, and it was to meet with US Senators, and House of Representative members from Florida, and to go along with the city’s lobbyist group too to DC in the interest of Ovideo, supposedly, and to talk about FEMA reimbursing Oviedo for the two hurricane costs of removing the debris they incurred at a cost of 1.2 million they spent because of the hurricanes….the council lady, Megan Sladek, did not think it was a necessary trip, because they had the lobbyists there going, and they could pick up the phone and personally call Senators Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio, and House member, Stephanie Murphy….and this is just what she did….she called them herself to discuss the FEMA reimbursments, and one even arranged to come to the city in person to talk with them…..and she said that she was not sure the trip was worth it to the tax payers of the city, and she then decided to invite herself along for the trip, to make sure it was worth it to the taxpayers, and would spend the night at a friend’s home she knew, instead of at a hotel at Oviedo tax payers expense…..long story short, this went over like a lead balloon with the mayor, and he was furious, got emotional and lashed out, and quote said, “You know what…..nobody is going”….The council woman, Megan Sladek, has decided, as our mommy, that none of us should go, and it’s not good for the city!”…….Another council member, Steve Henken, stated quote, “You’re not our mother, and we don’t need supervision when we are doing stuff”……plus at another time the council lady, Megan, had been referred to as a “petulant child”……LOL

  5. Okay, airfare, was $250 to $350 per person, meals….$58-$68 per person……hotel accommodations listed as $200-$400 per person for the Oviedo trip planned…..you know, to me, these costs sound very familiar, except Apopka’s trip costs were higher, I do believe! And it was to San Francisco, Nashville, DC, and where else, and don’t forget the hotel suite rented, that no one stayed in, when another room was rented, at a cost of the empty suite, of what was it?…..$2,200 wasn’t it? I see in the newspaper, that Mr. Bass, the new Apopka City Administrator, is going to reel in these free city vacations….good for him!

  6. Council lady, Megan Sladek, of Oviedo…..she has been called the ” mommy of the city council” by the mayor, and another council member said she is “not our mother,” and another time, she was referred to as a “petulant child”……I say, Happy Mothers Day, regardless of whether you are the mommy or not, or a petulant child, and a big thumbs up Megan!!! LOL…..she also said that the FEMA grant had not even been applied for yet, and that quote, “If they can’t explain why they’re going, then maybe the trip has no value for anybody.” Her term is up in Dec. and then she is running for the mayor’s seat….LOL Also the mayor has apologized for his anger and comments…..LOL

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