The History of Mother's Day
by Patti Chadwick
All across the world,
over 46 countries honor mothers with a special day, but not all
nations celebrate on the same day. We honor mothers with cards,
candy, flowers and dinner out. But have you ever considered how this
became a legal holiday in the United States?
Mother's day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward
Howe, writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She suggested that
this day be dedicated to peace. Miss Howe organized Mother's Day
meetings in Boston, Mass. yearly.
In 1877, Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely inadvertently set Mother's Day
in motion. On Sunday, May 11, 1877, which was Mrs. Blakely's
birthday, the pastor of her Methodist Episcopal Church left the
pulpit abruptly, being distraught over the behavior of his son. Mrs.
Blakely stepped to the pulpit to take over the remainder of the
service and called for other mothers to join her. Mrs. Blakely's two
sons were so touched by her gesture that they vowed to return to
their hometown of Albion, Michigan every year to mark their mother's
birthday and to pay tribute to her. In addition, the two brothers
also urged business associates and those they met while traveling as
salesman to honor their mothers on the second Sunday of May. They
also urged the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion to set aside the
second Sunday of each May to honor all mothers, and especially their
While there were local celebrations honoring mothers in the late
1800's, it was largely due to the efforts of
Anna Jarvis that Mother's Day
became a national holiday in the United States. Anna's mother, Mrs.
Anna M. Jarvis, had been instrumental in developing "Mother's
Friendship Day" which was part of the healing process of the Civil
War. In honor of her mother, Miss Jarvis wanted to set aside a day
to honor all mothers, living and dead.
In 1907, Miss Anna began a campaign to establish a national Mother's
Day. She persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to
celebrate Mother's day on the second anniversary of her mother's
death, the second Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was
also celebrated in her own city of Philadelphia.
Miss Jarvis and her supporters began to write to Godly ministers,
evangelists, businessmen, and politicians in their crusade to
establish a national Mother's Day. This campaign was a success. By
1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the
Union. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official
announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was
to be held each year on the second Sunday of May.
The one-woman crusade of
Anna Jarvis is often overlooked in
history books. Women during the early 1900's were engaged in many
other reform efforts that the history behind Mother's Day is often
neglected. But it is likely that it was these other reforms and the
avenues they opened for women that paved the way for Anna Jarvis to
succeed in her campaign for Mother's Day.
Patti Chadwick is the creator of
Tymes the online magazine that provides encouragement for
today's busy family. She is also the creator of
History’s Women, an online magazine highlighting the
extraordinary achievements of women throughout history.
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