The history of Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is a time to honor motherhood and show our appreciation to moms of all kinds, including wives, sisters, and grandmas, for all their hard work and sacrifice. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 9, 2021, and it’s customary to shower mothers with gifts, such as flowers and jewelry, on this special day. But what exactly are the origins of Mother’s Day? As with many holidays, the history behind Mother’s Day is based on both ancient and modern traditions from around the world.

History of Mother’s Day
Historically, mothers have always held essential roles in society. From Marie Curie, the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize, to former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, moms have changed the world. For this reason, numerous individuals gather to celebrate all forms of motherhood on Mother’s Day, and we have a few extraordinary women to thank for that.

Ann Reeves Jarvis
In 1858, Ann Reeves Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, established Mothers’ Work Days during the Civil War in an effort to improve sanitation for soldiers and children. She also helped start a club to teach women how to take care of children. You see, as a mother, she had lost eight out of her twelve children due to poor sanitation conditions. 

When the Civil War broke out in the United States, she asked various members of the clubs she helped organize to pledge that the war wouldn’t interfere with their work. They vowed to provide medical care and assist those with illnesses regardless of which side they were fighting on. She then started Mother’s Friendship Day as a day to promote the reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers.

Julia Ward Howe
Around this time, Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist, writer, and suffragette, wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation to ask mothers to join her in promoting world peace. In 1873, she campaigned to establish a Mother’s Day of Peace in order to achieve world peace and resolve the conflicts between human beings. She was greatly inspired by the work of Ann Reeves Jarvis. 

Anna Jarvis
It wasn’t until Ann Reeves Jarvis’ daughter, Anna, came along that Mother’s Day became the widely recognized holiday we know and love today. After the death of Anna’s mother in 1905, she wanted to create a memorial day to honor mothers who had passed away and acknowledge the sacrifices mothers endure for their children.

The first official Mother’s Day celebration was held in Grafton, West Virginia at a local church on May 10, 1908. Thanks to the financial backing of John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia business owner, this Mother’s Day was an enormous success. On this day, thousands of people also showed up to a simultaneous Mother’s Day event occurring at one of Wanamaker’s stores. If you go to this church today, you can find the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

Seeing how successful this first Mother’s Day event was, Anna vowed to make it a national holiday. She tirelessly wrote to politicians and newspapers from around the country, asking them to adopt the day and celebrate motherhood. Soon, the tradition caught on and spread to 45 other states, and several of them even declared it an official holiday in 1912 and after.

Finally, in 1914, former President Woodrow Wilson announced the first national celebration of Mother’s Day. Now, Mother’s Day is celebrated every second Sunday in May.

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