The History of Mother's Day

The History of Mother’s Day

Believe it or not, Mother’s Day was not always about cards or brunch celebrations.

The History of Mother's Day

The History of Mother’s Day

Do you know the real history of Mother’s Day? It might surprise you!

We assume Mother’s Day was created as a legal holiday to honor mothers signed into effect by a President. Well, that did happen. (Thanks President Wilson!) But that was not the true origin of the holiday. The first Mother’s Day origins came much earlier and for very different reasons. Read on to learn about the true history of Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day began as a women’s movement to repair the nation after the Civil War. Two incredible women led the way: Ann Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.

The History of Ann Reeves Jarvis

Known as “Mother Jarvis”, – Ann Reeves Jarvis was an Appalachian activist, who wanted to find ways to bridge the gaps between the two sides during the war. She created women’s brigades to help any women and children in need regardless of which side they supported. After the war, she continued bringing people together by organizing Mother’s Clubs dedicated to helping newly widowed mothers (again from both sides) better their living conditions.

The History of Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was another formidable force during the Civil War. She was a famous poet. In addition, to penning the Battle Hymn of the Republic, she also used her writing gifts to encourage thought and pacifism. She penned a proclamation, dedicated to celebrating peace and ending the war. She believed mothers, in particular, were key to preventing future cruelties and lives lost in war. She called for an annual Mother’s Day for Peace where women could gather and further their cause. After all, every soldier has a mother.

Howe’s version of Mother’s Day was held in Boston and other locations for over 30 years. However, it fell apart during World War I.

Mother’s Day and any forms of its celebration was forgotten until Jarvis’s daughter brought it back to life. After her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis wanted to memorialize her mother and honor her legacy. She believed establishing a national day to commemorate mothers would be the perfect way to do that.

She began campaigning and lobbying national groups for support. And on May 10, 1907 she held the first Mother’s Day ceremony. The city of Philadelphia repeated the ceremony the following year and the mayor soon declared it a public holiday.

From there, appeals continued for national support and in 1914, Mother’s Day was declared a federal holiday.

Some would say we’ve lost sight of the original sentiment behind the day over the years. We’ve allowed it to get commercial and be another excuse for cards, gifts and obligation. Yes, we should most definitely pamper our mothers on this day. (Seriously guys, get that massage gift card to honor their hard work, please!)

But let’s take a moment to remember the original intent behind the day as well. The original founders recognized something sacred about the bonds of motherhood. Let’s face it, there is a lot of ugliness in the world. And it often feels we have more differences than things in common. But there is one bond that transcends all the differences in the world. Across cultures, socioeconomic status etc.,. – there is no more common bond than the bond of motherhood.

So, on this upcoming Sunday- while you toast at brunch or whatever you’re doing to celebrate, perhaps take a moment to remember that original intent to repair and further the efforts for peace. Mothers, we all want what’s best for our children. So, let’s work together and do what we can to make this world a better place for them.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Read more of Joyana’s posts about history, books and words here!

Leave a Reply