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Mother's Day


The history of Motherís Day is a long and storied one with many precursors to the annual celebration on the second Sunday in May, here in the United States. Many different cultures in different countries also celebrate Motherís Day but do it differently at different times during the year. While the celebration of motherhood can be found as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans, the most clear precedent for Motherís Day is something called Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday was a festival set forth by early Christians in the United Kingdom as well as other parts of Europe. It was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent and was a time when the Christian faithful would return home to their mother church for a special church. The mother church is the main church by their homes.

Eventually, Mothering Sunday, turned to a more secular celebration where children would present their mothers with flowers and gifts to show their appreciation for her. The Mothering Sunday holiday eventually weakened in popularity until it merged with the American Motherís Day celebration of the 1930ís and 40ís.

The origins of Motherís Day can be traced back to the early 19th century when a woman named Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia started a thing called Motherís Day Work Clubs. These work clubs were formed to teach local women how to properly care for their children and they later became a coalescing power in an area that was divided by the Civil War. In 1868, Jarvis began something called Motherís Friendship Day. This was an event where mothers gathered former Union and Confederate soldiers in an attempt to promote peace between the two factions.

One other precursor to our celebration of mothers here in the United States came from a woman named Julia Ward Howe. Howe was an abolitionist and a suffragette and in 1870, she wrote the Motherís Day Proclamation. This proclamation asked mothers to come together and promote world peace. In 1873, Julia Ward Howe campaigned for a celebration to happen on every June 2 and called it Motherís Peace Day.

However it was a woman named Anna Jarvis who is responsible for the Motherís Day celebration that we have today and started in the 1900ís. Anna Jarvis was the daughter of the aforementioned Anne Reeves Jarvis and she birthed the idea of a Motherís Day in a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers had made for their families. In 1908, three years after her motherís death, Jarvis finally got some backing from a man named John Wanamaker, a department store owner in Philadelphia. In May of that year, Anna Jarvis organized the very first official Motherís Day celebration at a church in Grafton, West Virginia and on that same day, throngs of people attended the Motherís Day event being held at one of Wanamakerís department stores.

Through Jarvisís hard work and perseverance, her dream of a national Motherís Day came to fruition in 1914 when then President Woodrow Wilson signed the second Sunday of May as Motherís Day into legislation.

However, Anna Jarvis soon began t hate the holiday she helped to create when it became commercialized. Flower stores, candy stores and card companies all saw this as a potential money-maker and they were right. Jarvis decried the commercialization of the holiday and told people not to buy flowers or candies for their mothers. She soon openly campaigned against the profiteers of the holiday and also spent most of her personal wealth in legal fees going after groups that used the words Motherís Day in order to profit from it. By the time Anna Jarvis died in 1948, she had disowned the holiday altogether and lobbied the government to remove the holiday from the calendar.

How do you celebrate Motherís Day? Come to the History forum and discuss it with us.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Vance Rowe for details.

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