The History of Mother’s Day in the United States

Happy Mothers Day resizedMany families celebrate Mother’s Day every year. Have you ever wondered how Mother’s Day got started? Who thought of it? How did it get declared a holiday? Was it always celebrated the way we celebrate it today in the United States?

The official Mother’s Day holiday, as we know it today, was started by Anna Jarvis. In 1905, her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Daughter Anna Jarvis wanted there to be a way to honor the sacrifices that mothers made for their children.

It took financial backing before that dream was realized. John Wanamaker was a department store owner in Philadelphia. He became Anna Jarvis’ financial backer. In 1908, the first official Mother’s Day was celebrated at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Unsurprisingly, one of John Wanamaker’s retail stores, in Pennsylvania, held a Mother’s Day event on that same day. Thousands attended it.

Anna Jarvis didn’t stop there. She wanted to see Mother’s Day be added to the national calendar of holidays. A push was made through a letter writing campaign to newspapers and politicians. Each letter urged that Mother’s Day be adopted as a day that honored mothers. Part of the letter writing campaign noted that the American holidays at that time were all biased toward male achievements. This holiday would focus on a very significant female achievement.

Several towns and cities started celebrating their own Mother’s Day holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially established that the second Sunday in the month of May would henceforth officially be Mother’s Day. That means that this year’s Mother’s Day, in 2014, will be the 100th time that the holiday has been celebrated.

As you can see, Mother’s Day (in the United States) is a holiday that was originally intended to be a way to honor all mothers for the sacrifices that they make. The reason why we celebrate Mother’s Day today comes from that initial concept. Part of what we are doing is honoring our mothers for the sacrifices they have made.

Why do we traditionally give gifts of flowers, cards, and candy on Mother’s Day? This began shortly after Mother’s Day was officially designated. By 1920, the holiday had become so over-commercialized that founder Anna Jarvis was troubled by it. Sadly, she ended up opposing the very holiday that she worked so hard to create.

Image by Sharon on Flickr.

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