The History of Mother’s Day

• Ancient Greek and Roman festivals were held in honor of the Mother Goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

• The earliest modern Mother’s Day was an early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” It was a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. Mothering Sunday was held the fourth Sunday in Lent.

• In modern day Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated in August, on the birthday of the current Queen.

• Mother’s Day has been used as a time to focus on political or feminist causes. In 1968, Coretta Scott King (wife of Martin Luther King Jr.) hosted a march in support of underprivileged women and children on Mother’s Day.

• In the 1970’s, many woman’s groups used the holiday to highlight the need for equal rights and better access to childcare.

• More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.

In America, the official Mother’s Day holiday was the creation of Anna Jarvis. Her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis helped start Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in the years before the Civil War. These clubs were started to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

Ann Jarvis

Following her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived the idea of Mother’s Day. She envisioned it as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers make for their children. After securing financial backing from Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day Celebration in May 1908. The celebration was held at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, as well as at all Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Many churches and towns adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday by 1912. Jarvis established the Mother’s Day International Association, and started a letter writing campaign to promote the idea of Mother’s Day as a national holiday. In 1914, Jarvis’ hard work led to President Woodrow Wilson officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Ironically, Mother’s Day did not turn out as Jarvis envisioned it. Her vision consisted of women wearing a white carnation as a sign of motherhood, and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. Jarvis quickly became disgusted with how commercialized the holiday became. She started an open campaign against Mother’s Day ‘profiteers,’ even launching countless lawsuits against groups that used the name “Mother’s Day.” By the time of her death in 1948, Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

Happy Mother’s day to all of the people who have mothered us, and to those who nurture, guide, and council us.


Created with images by Annie Spratt - "Dark Florals" • Les Anderson - "Vintage baby gown" • sergio salamanca - "Jessi comiendo su primera sandia en Hontoba. Guadalajara (Madrid) 1992" • Brian Wangenheim - "Work From Home - woman on phone" • Sai De Silva - "untitled image" • Tanaphong Toochinda - "Feeding a Baby" • Alexander Dummer - "Time together on the couch" • Jhon David - "untitled image" • Caroline Hernandez - "Mother and daughter" • "Print of Coretta Scott King leading a Mother's Day march for welfare rights" by United Press International, Smithsonian Institution is licensed under CC BY 4.0 o By Phil Stanziola, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c28926, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1304172 o J. Paul Getty MuseumStatue of a Seated Cybele with the Portrait Head of her Priestess - 57.AA.19 No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45094044