Some Background on Mother's Day

Some Background on Mother's Day
Mother’s Day is celebrated in the U.S as well as in England. Historically the original idea of a day for mothers started with the Greeks. They held spring festivals in which they honored Rhea, the mother of many deities. England was one of the first in modern times to set aside a special day to honor all mothers.

In America the holiday of Mother’s Day has changed much over the years. One of the early calls for a national Mother’s Day was in a Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe in Boston in 1870. Though nothing about our present day celebrations would reveal this to be the case, the original proclamation was an anti-war protest after the Civil War by women who had lost their sons during the war. The proclamation urged women to commemorate the day in this way:

“Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace.” Notice that in this instance that the mothers are honoring their sons, which is the opposite of our current Mother’s Day celebrations.

Howe called for “a general congress of women without limit of nationality” that would pursue peace around the world long before there was a League of Nations or a United Nations.

Others also called for a day to honor mothers everywhere in the country. In the 20th century work began anew to establish such a holiday. Around 1907 Anna Jarvis continued efforts to achieve her mother’s dream, which was for a national day to honor mothers and peace. She is now considered to be the holidays’ founder. One of the early recorded public celebrations of Mother’s Day took place on May 10, 1908 at the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Less than seven years later in 1914, Congress named the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Congress passed a joint resolution, and Woodrow Wilson signed it.

Unfortunately, the celebration of the new holiday was far different than what Jarvis originally intended. In the end Americans responded to vigorous marketing by merchants selling chocolate and greeting cards, and chose to celebrate as they see fit, which is mostly by buying gifts.

Now the custom is to wear a carnation on Mother’s Day. If one’s mother is alive a red carnation is chosen. For those whose mother has passed away a white one is used to honor her memory.


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