A History of Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 13th. Known as International Hummus Day, National Apple Pie Day, and even National Leprechaun Day. Of course, besides these lesser known holidays, May 13th this year, or every second Sunday, is Mother’s Day. On this day, mothers are celebrated everywhere for all they do each and every day of the year. Yet many do not know the true history behind this beloved holiday.

In the age of classical Greece and Rome, mothers were honored in accordance with the feast days of goddesses like Rhea, among others. Later, these types of religious holidays expanded to Christianity with “Mothering Sunday.” Children would give their mothers flowers and little gifts on this day. Although it later grew out of popularity, Americans first adopted the tradition of praising their mothers annually on the same day beginning in the times of the Civil War.

Ann Reeves Jarvis, a West Virginian mother and war effort volunteer, campaigned for a “Mothers’ Day Work Club”, teaching young mothers how to care for children and look after every aspect of the home. Overtime, these clubs grew and united. In 1868, “Mothers’ Friendship Day” was created to help bring peace between the North and South in post-Civil War times during Reconstruction.

Although Jarvis and many other activists petitioned for this day, Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, truly led the campaign. After her own mother’s death, she wanted a way to honor her passing. She organized the first celebration of all mothers in May of 1908. With the first annual success, she aimed to add this holiday to the calendar.

Her efforts succeeded, as many states and counties let the idea prosper. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson finally signed the document that allowed the second Sunday in May to be named Mother’s Day every single year.

Ironically, Jarvis eventually wanted to revert all her past actions. She was saddened by the way florists and other companies used people as economic pawns to sell Mother’s-Day-themed products.

Whether or not you fancy large department stores putting flowers and gifts in their windows or in online advertisements every time the second Sunday in May rolls around, this day has a rich history and an interesting start. More importantly, this day honors those who make sacrifices as great as Jarvis did each and every day: mothers.