• 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.
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.