The History of Mother’s Day – A Labor of Love

In the hustle and bustle of life, Mother’s Day is a time to pay tribute to our mother and show her just how much we appreciate everything she’s done, and continues to do for us. It’s a very special day in the calendar for a very special person. But do you know the history of Mother’s Day? The following article is a quick look at how Mother’s Day in the United States officially came to be.

The Mother of all Goddesses

Mother’s Day has its origins in ancient Greek and Roman festivals dedicated to maternal goddesses. The Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, while the Romans’ Hilaria spring festival was dedicated to Cybele another mother goddess.

Mothering Sunday

A more modern version of Mother’s Day began in the 1600s in England, with Mothering Sunday which was celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday). As early as 10 years of age, children started working as servants, and living in servants’ quarters on their wealthy employer’s grounds. Because children were often miles from their parents, Mothering Sunday became a cherished day where servants were permitted to return home to their mothers for the day, making it one of happiness and celebration.

A Day of Peace

In 1872 in the US, Julia Ward Howe, famous for writing the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic during the Civil War, began promoting Mother’s Day as one dedicated to peace. In 1872, the holiday was just an idea being promoted, but by 1873 women in 18 US cities held Mother’s Day for Peace celebrations. While the number of celebrations dwindled from year to year, it held on for another three decades. In fact, Boston continued the annual celebration for ten consecutive years. Yet, for one reason or another, the celebrations ceased. (Can we get a ’tisk ’tisk).

Declaring a Holiday

During the second week in May of 1905, Anna Jarvis from Philadelphia was mourning the loss of her mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis. During the Civil War, her mother organized women with the goal of working to improve sanitation conditions for both Union and Confederate soldiers on days called Mother’s Work Days. Her mother was an inspiration to Anna and in 1907 she held a memorial and campaigned to establish a national Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis and her supporters then wrote to ministers, businessmen, and politicians promoting their campaign in an endeavor to establish a national holiday and on May 14, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Mother’s Day Proclamation. The second Sunday in May was officially declared Mother’s Day in the United States, and an International Mother’s Day Shrine was erected in Grafton, West Virginia, the childhood hometown of Anna Jarvis, to commemorate her achievement.

An International Celebration

Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world at different times during the year. However, some countries including Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Australia also celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.

Regardless of the actual date Mother’s Day is celebrated, it’s an important day in the calendar and one on which we can give thanks to that very special person in our life: our mom.