Some Mother’s Day History

Edmond P. DeRousse May 7, 2018 at 7:34 pm

 Anna Jarvis (1864 – 1948)

Families were divided. The country was divided. The North against the South.

But there was a powerful unifying force in the United States. In the regions divided by the Civil War were “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs”. It was a Mothers’ movement founded by Ann Jarvis (the inspiration for Mother’s Day) in the 1850s. Their intent was to teach local women how to properly care for their children. Their clubs provided assistance and education to families to help reduce disease and infant mortality.

During the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis had asked her clubs to pledge that friendship and goodwill would not be a victim of the conflict. They would go on to nurse soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.

In 1868 Jarvis, along with other mothers, got together with former Union and Confederate soldiers. Their focus was to “reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War”. She organized a committee to create “Mothers’ Friendship Day”.

But it was her daughter, Anna (1864- 1948), who organized the first “official” Mothers’ Day celebration. She wanted to find a way to memorialize her mother who died May 9, 1905. Anna persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate her mother’s death. The second Sunday of May became the day to honor all mothers.

On May 10, 1908 the first Mother’s Day events were held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia and a department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her philanthropist friend John Wanamaker, the department store owner, provided the funds to make it happen. Thousands of people attended both the events.

Anna distributed 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, for the first service. The white carnation, representing “pure love” became the official symbol of Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis had an unwavering determination to make it a national event.  Her mother had a prayer. It was that someday someone would create a day which would memorialize all mothers for their service for humanity. Anna promised her mother at her gravesite that she be the one to answer that prayer. She began a letter-writing campaign to persuade governors of every state to establish the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day.

Finally, in 1914 the U. S. House and Senate made a resolution proclaiming the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. President Woodrow Wilson endorsed it and Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, proclaimed it.

Anna Jarvis died at 84 and was buried in Philadelphia. In her honor, the bell on Andrews Church tolled 84 times on the day of her funeral. Anna, who never married nor had any children, spent her final days in a mental asylum in Pennsylvania distraught by the fact that Mother’s Day had become something she did not intend. It had become too commercial. Ironically, part of her medical bills were paid for by a group of grateful florists

Did You Know?

 Mothers’ day celebrations can be traced back to the ancient the Greeks and Romans. They held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

  1. In Thailand, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.
  2. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children
  3. Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia who started Mother’s Day celebrations also filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop the over- commercialisation of Mother’s Day. She lost her fight. Anna had hoped for a day of reflection and quiet prayer by families, thanking God for all that mothers had done.
  4. In the vast majority of the world’s languages, the word for “mother” begins with the letter M.
  5. Bobbie McCaughey is the mother who holds the record for the most surviving children from a single birth. She gave birth to the first set of surviving septuplets – four boys and three girls -on November 19, 1997, at the University Hospital, Iowa, US. Conceived by in vitro fertilization, the babies were delivered after 31 weeks by cesarean in the space of 16 minutes.
  6. Lina Marcela Medina de Jurado is a Peruvian woman who became the youngest confirmed mother in medical history, giving birth at the age of five years, seven months, and 21 days. She lives in Lima, the capital of Peru.


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