History of Mothers Day - Origins and Interesting Facts

fun Apr 27, 2021

Today, 50 countries from different parts of the world celebrate Mother’s Day. Histories, dates, and traditions vary, but all occasions aim to honor one of the most important people in our lives — our mothers. To learn more about the history of Mother’s Day in the USA, we have to commemorate the exceptional women and men who fought to honor mothers.   

Ann Reese Jarvis

In the mid-1800s, Ann Jarvis created Mother’s Day clubs to teach the women in her West Virginia hometown how to care for children and combat the unsanitary living conditions of their time. In 1868, Ann elevated her goal for the celebration. She organized Mother’s Friendship Day to reconcile the fighting confederate and union soldiers by uniting their mothers.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe, a known social activist, suggested holding a Mother’s Peace Day celebration every June 2nd to honor mothers who lost sons and husbands to the Civil War. Her proposal was an anti-war cry, urging mothers to be against wars in general. She dreamed of building a council where women could meet once a year to discuss ways to achieve peace.

Juliet Calhoun Blakely

Unlike the first remarkable women we discussed, Juliet Calhoun Blakely inspired an annual celebration in her town because of her faith and ability to speak fluently in front of a crowd. During a sermon in the church she frequented, the minister was so overwhelmed with grief that he cut the services short. Juliet stepped onto the stage, continued the speech, and finished the service with the other mothers of the congregation. Her sons were so impressed with their mother that they encouraged their town to celebrate her every second Sunday of May. 

Mary Towles Sasseen

Today, Mary Towles Sasseen is known as the first individual to celebrate Mother’s Day. In 1887, she traveled across the country to promote her idea of a national holiday for mothers. A school system in Springfield, Ohio, adopted Mary’s proposal to celebrate it on April 20th, her mother’s birthday.

Frank Hering

We know Frank Hering now as the Father of Mother’s Day. In 1904, he gave a speech called Our Mothers and Their Importance in Our Lives. His speech in front of an audience at the English Opera House on Monument Circle was the first public plea for a national Mother’s Day celebration.

Anna Jarvis

Ann Reese Jarvis, the first Mother’s Day heroine we mentioned, died in 1905. In 1907, her daughter Anna Jarvis began campaigning to celebrate the sacrifices mothers make for their children. One year later, she received financial backing and support from John Wanamaker, a retail store owner in Philadelphia.

In 1908, thousands of people showed up in John’s store to celebrate Mother’s Day. However, Anna did not stop there. She wrote letters to prominent politicians urging them to support the celebration.

By 1911, nearly every state in the union started celebrating the occasion. Three years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation to make the second Sunday of May the official Mother’s Day.

Modern Mother’s Day Celebrations

Anna Jarvis played a crucial role in the history of Mother’s Day, but she was not happy about how commercialized the occasion became. She wanted celebrations to focus on mothers and making them feel loved instead of businesses profiting from them.

Today, Mother’s Day generates the most phone calls, restaurant guests, and the third most greetings cards compared to any day of the year. While modern celebrations go against Anna’s ideal observance, she succeeded in making mothers feel loved during this holiday. 

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