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A History of Mother’s Day

You are currently viewing A History of Mother’s Day
Mother's Day wasn't always all about the flowers and cards!
  • Post category:News

Annually in the United States, we all celebrate the first women in our lives on the second Sunday of May. This year, we just celebrated Mother’s Day this past Sunday, May 14th. It is an age-old tradition filled with flowers and cards, but have you ever wondered where the holiday came from?

The holiday as celebrated in the United States can actually be traced back to the Civil War. Originally, two women, Ann Reeves Jarvis, and Julia Ward Howe, separately were working to unite mothers and the country. Jarvis formed groups called “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs.” In these, she taught local women how to properly care for their children.

These groups increased in popularity across the country, so Jarvis formed “Mothers’ Friendship Day.” This focused on uniting former Union and Confederate mothers.

Howe wrote “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” which was a call to action for mothers to promote world peace. Howe was pushing to start a “Mother’s Peace Day,” which she planned to ideally celebrate every June 2nd.

While they built the foundation for the holiday, Mother’s Day as we know it actually came more directly from Ann’s daughter, Anna Jarvis.

After Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter Anna thought up a way to honor her mother and mothers everywhere. It began with the support of Philadelphia department store owner, John Wanamaker. With his financial support, Jarvis organized a celebration of mothers to happen at a Methodist church in West Virginia. There was also a celebration at one of Wanamaker’s stores. When the first ever Mother’s Day was an enormous success, Jarvis set her sights on a bigger undertaking, getting the holiday recognized nationally.

In 1914, Jarvis finally succeeded in her goal and got Mother’s Day recognized by President Woodrow Wilson.

After the day was signed into the nation’s history in 1914, Jarvis set forth on solidifying traditions. The day began as a day to spend time with your mother while wearing a white carnation badge and go to church.

Naturally, businesses saw this day as a new way to make money. They began promoting gift-giving in the form of flowers, cards, and sweets. Jarvis was horrified by the way the holiday had rapidly commercialized. In 1920 she began denouncing the practices of many on the day. She even went as far as to turn her goals towards removing the day from American calendars and passed away in 1948 fully distanced from the holiday.

Around the world, people celebrate Mother’s Day at various times of the year with different traditions.

While only increasing in its capitalistic connections, Mother’s Day has also been used as a day to make political statements. Coretta Scott King used the day to hold a march to stand in solidarity with underprivileged women and children in 1968. In 1970, women’s groups around the country used Mother’s Day to stand up for equal rights for women. They also marched to call for more access to childcare.

Whether you use the day to make a political statement, partake in commercialized gift-giving practices, or stick to the original traditions, make sure to always wish your mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

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