Please acknowledge your mothers this Sunday. She brought you into life, nurtured you into adulthood, and has been something of an inspiration ever since.
The origin of Mother’s Day, as celebrated in the U.S., dates back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
At the end of the conflict, the clubs became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868, Jarvis organized Mother’s 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. Howe, who wrote the stirring theme of the Civil War “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” later became a fervent anti-war activist. In this regard, in 1870 she published an anti-war Mother’s Day proclamation which we have excerpted here:
“Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or tears!
“Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.
“We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
“From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, disarm.’
“As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, 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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar but of God.
“In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions and the great and general interests of peace.”
Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s.
The official Mother’s Day arose in the 1900s as a result of efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann 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 getting financial backing from John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia Dept. store owner in May 1908, she organized the first official.
In 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday. Jarvis’ persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
There is some evidence that the Greeks and Romans celebrated their mothers long before the U.S. made it official. Today, like most holiday commemorations, Mother’s Day has become a bit over commercialized.
More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. These chats with mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37%.