holiday celebrations | days & dates | fun & wacky daily holidays | holiday travel | holiday blog | holiday greeting cards | holiday recipes | email

The History
(AKA Her-story)
of Mother's Day

Celebrating motherhood is a historical tradition dating back almost as far as mothers themselves. A number of ancient cultures paid tribute to mothers as goddesses, including the ancient Greeks, who celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods. The ancient Romans also honored their mother goddess, Cybele, in a notoriously rowdy springtime celebration and the Celtic Pagans marked the coming of spring with a fertility celebration linking their goddess Brigid together with the first milk of the ewes.

During the 17th century, those living on the British isles initiated a religious celebration of motherhood, called Mothering Sunday, which was held on the forth Sunday during the Lenten season. This holiday featured the reunification of mothers and their children, separated when working class families had to send off their young children to be employed as house servants. On Mothering Sunday, the child servants were allowed to return home for the day to visit with their parents. The holiday's popularity faded in the 19th century, only to be reincarnated during World War II when U.S. servicemen reintroduced the sentimental (and commercial) aspects of the celebration American counterpart.

In the United States, Mother's Day experienced a series of false starts before eventually transitioning into the "Hallmark" holiday that we celebrate today. In 1858, Anna Reeves Jarvis was the first woman to hold an official celebration of mothers, when in her home state of West Virginia, she instituted Mothers' Work Day to raise awareness about local sanitation issues. During the Civil War, she expanded the scope of Mothers' Work Day to include sanitary conditions on both sides of the battlefield.

Meanwhile Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," attempted to institute a national celebration of mothers that honored women's inclinations toward peace (rather than cleanliness). In 1872, she initiated and promoted a Mother's Day for Peace, to be held on June 2, which was celebrated the following year by women in 18 cities across America. The holiday continued to be honored by Bostonian women for another decade, but eventually phased out after Howe stopped underwriting the cost of the celebrations.

Then in 1905, Anna Reeves Jarvis passed away and her daughter, Anna Jarvis, took up her mother's torch. Anna swore on her mother's gravesite that she would realize her lifelong dream of creating a national day to honor mothers. In 1907, Anna launched her campaign by handing out white carnations to congregants at her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, her mother's church acquiesced to Anna's request to hold a special Sunday service in honor of mothers - a tradition that spread the very next year to churches in 46 states. In 1909, Anna left her job and dedicated herself to a full-time letter-writing campaign, imploring politicians, clergymen and civic leaders to institute a national day for mothers.

In 1912, Jarvis' efforts met with success: Her home state of West Virginia adopted an official Mother's Day; two years later, the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution, signed by President Wilson, establishing a national Mother's Day emphasizing the role of women in their families - and not, like Julia Ward Howe's campaign, in the public arena. Ever since, Mother's Day has been celebrated by Americans on the second Sunday in May.

Perhaps the country's greatest proponent of motherhood, Anna Jarvis ironically never had children of her own. Yet that didn't stop her from making the celebration of Mother's Day her lifelong mission. In fact, as the holiday took on a life of its own, Jarvis expressed frequent dismay over its growing commercialization. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," she is quoted as saying.

Like this article?

Related Articles:
Mother's Day Muffins
Mother's Day Gift Guide
Poem: M - O - T - H - E - R
2003 Presidential Mother's Day Proclamation
Mother's Day Blog

Add Comment
Elaine L Myers from Georgia, US
23:02 05/08/2011
moms in heaven now and i miss her so much
petal from Oklahoma, US
14:33 05/08/2011
Happy mothers day , I do miss my mom , those of you who still have a mom here , give her loads of love every day not just on mothers day , you will be glad you did
Rebirth Women from Texas, US
08:25 05/08/2011
God's Love For Mothers
Daniel Taban from Sudan
02:55 05/08/2011
May God bless our mathor's because they are the source of the life with them around we are bless and gifted
10:04 05/07/2011
check this out
rose lanclos from Louisiana, US
23:13 05/06/2011
Sebastian from Florida, US
10:04 05/06/2011
I am awesome
rhiannon from Australia
20:35 05/03/2011
Mum's are the reason us kids are around so thank them for who they are and what they have done. :)
akshay from India
14:56 05/03/2011
M... is for the million things she gave me, O... means only that she's growing old, T... is for the tears she shed to save me, H... is for her heart of purest gold; E... is for her eyes, with love-light shining, R... means right, and right she'll always be.
Meg from Michigan, US
08:26 04/29/2011
People think of mothers day as a bank holiday and just another postcard day. But honestly it is truly a time to relax and prove that mother's are more than the person who does your laundry. Mothers day is a day for all of us mothers, and those who have mothers, and those who will soon be mothers. Thanks Mom's for everything you do.

Visit our other holiday celebrations

Sign up for Free Holiday Newsletters and Text Messages
Email Address:
We'll keep you informed of future Holidays on the Net Celebrations