The History of Mother’s Day in the United States

Mother's Day history

Each year, people all over the world set aside one day to celebrate their mothers. They send their moms flowers and cards, take them out to dinner, and help with the household chores. Even though most people love and cherish their mothers throughout the year, it’s nice to set aside a day to make her feel special. How did the holiday get started? Here’s an overview of how Mother’s Day really came to be.

Early Celebrations

Even though Mother’s Day is a modern holiday, it began in ancient times, particularly in Ancient Greece and Rome. Both cultures held a festival each year to honor their “mother goddess,” who was referred to as either Cybele or Gaia depending on the culture. In England, Mothering Sunday came about in the 16th Century as a way for children to return home once a year to visit with their mothers and attend their “mother church.” During this time, children often lived away from home to become domestic servants, apprentices, and even to attend boarding school.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was the first person in the United States to observe a form of “Mother’s Day.” However, her motives were political in nature. She is most well-known for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which she penned during the Civil War. She also wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870 as an expression of her own views that true peace begins in the home. As a pacifist saddened by war, Howe appealed to mothers to encourage their husbands and sons to “disarm” and abandon a life that encouraged violence. In response to her proclamation, the city of Boston held the “Mother’s Day Peace Observance” on the second Sunday in June in 1872. Other cities around the United States soon followed.

Anna Jarvis

However, it was Anna Jarvis who is given credit for being the official founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. Anna’s mother, an activist, would tell her daughter that she wished there was a day set aside each year that would honor all mothers. When her mother passed away in 1905, Anna honored her wishes. She began by honoring her mother’s church by sending them carnations, her mother’s favorite flower. Realizing that it wasn’t enough, she enlisted the help of others to help her petition the government to make Mother’s Day an official holiday. It worked. On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution, which stated that Mother’s Day would be on the second Sunday in May.

Because of people like Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, mothers have a special day reserved just for them. Each year, on the second Sunday of May, mothers across the United States will be honored. It’s time to make plans to help your own mother feel like the special person she is!