A Brief History of Mother’s Day

Here in America and a couple other countries, Sunday was Mother’s Day. It’s a holiday to celebrate mothers everywhere, but do you know how it started? Well, if not, get ready because I’m going to give you a brief history of Mother’s Day.

So there’s a couple of different dates that are recognized as the start of Mother’s Day, from 1858 to 1913. I’ll tell you all of them and you can decide for yourself what you think.

In the 1850s, specifically around 1858, Ann Jarvis organized “Mother’s Work Days” in West Virginia. It was originally done so that women would have a better idea of how to care for their children. It also sought to improve sanitation conditions to lower the rate of infant mortality. These clubs also helped to care for soldiers during the Civil War.

Later, in the 1870s, Julia Ward Howe worked to recognize the work of mothers. You may not recognize the name Julia Ward Howe, but you should be familiar with her work. After all, her most famous work inspired my blog. She is better known for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Anyway, this same person started writing and promoting for Women’s Peace Day. This was done in protest to the Franco-Prussian War and to promote peace at least for a day. Howe wanted women to gather, sing, or pray in the name of global peace.

Then, in 1905, another woman came to the forefront in memoriam of a woman we have already discussed. Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Jarvis, wanted to honor her mother after she died. Anna never had any children of her own. So through some financial backing and promotion, she organized a celebration to honor her mom. One source I found said that it wasn’t originally meant to celebrate all mothers. Just your own. That’s why it is a singular Mother’s Day and not the plural Mothers’ Day.

The idea of Mother’s Day celebrations grew as the years did. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson passed a Congressional Act to make Mother’s Day an official holiday as the second Sunday in May. You would think that Anna Jarvis would have been happy with this. But no. She was mad about commercial companies profiting off this holiday and fought to restore it to what it was. She also refused President Franklin Roosevelt’s idea to make a commemorative stamp. She could have profited along with these companies. Instead, she was angry and used her own money to boycott and fight the commercialization. As a result, she ended up going bankrupt instead of earning money. She passed away in a sanitarium. I get why she didn’t want to profit off of it, but I think she may have fought it a little too hard.

So that’s how Mother’s Day came to be, from women’s conditions and childcare to an official holiday declared by Congress. I for one am grateful that it is no longer just about celebrating your own mother. I have friends’ moms who I consider almost as important as my own. Mothers do a lot and deserve to be celebrated, not just one day a year.

I hope you learned something! Weird and fun history is such a great thing, and I enjoy learning about it and telling all of you! So celebrate the mother figures in your life knowing the history!!


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