The History of Mother's Day
Some historians claim that the
predecessor of the Mother's Day holiday was the ancient spring
festival dedicated to mother goddesses. In the ancient Greek empire
the spring festival honored Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of the
gods and goddesses. In Rome the most significant Mother's Day-like
festival was dedicated to the worship of Cybele, another mother
goddess. Ceremonies in her honor began some 250 years before Christ
was born. This Roman religious celebration, known as Hilaria,
celebrating- from March 15 to 18.
Four hundred years ago, the
English celebrated a festival called "Mothering Sunday"
also called Mid-Lent Sunday, observed on the fourth Sunday in
Lent,just before Easter, one of the most important festivals for
Christians. On this day, women who worked as servants in the houses
of the rich, were given a holiday. They could return to their homes
and spend the day with their mothers. In other words, on that day,
they were mothered. A special cake, called the Mothering Cake was
also made on that day.
In 1872, Julia Ward Howe (who
wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) suggested the
idea of Mother's Day, but it was Miss Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948),
of Philadelphia, who began a letter-writing campaign to a variety
of influential people that made Mother's Day a national holiday.
Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) is
credited with originating our Mother's Day holiday. She never
married and was extremely attached to her mother, Mrs. Anna Reese
Jarvis. Mrs. Jarvis was a minister's daughter who for 20 years
taught Sunday School in the Andrews Methodist Church of Grafton,
West Virginia. Miss Jarvis graduated from the Female Seminary in
Wheeling, West Virginia, and taught in Grafton before moving to
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the rest of her family. Anna Reese
Jarvis died in Philadelphia in May of 1905. Still unmarried and
left alone with her blind sister Elsinore, Anna missed her mother
greatly. Two years after her mother's death (1907) Anna Jarvis and
her friends began a letter-writing campaign to gain the support of
influential ministers, businessmen and congressmen in declaring a
national Mother's Day holiday. She felt children often neglected to
appreciate their mother enough while the mother was still alive.
She hoped Mother's Day would increase respect for parents and
strengthen family bonds. The first Mother's Day observance was a
church service honoring Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis, held at Anna
Jarvis's request in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908.
Carnations, her mother's favorite
flowers, were supplied at that first service by Miss Jarvis. White
carnations were chosen because they represented the sweetness,
purity and endurance of mother love. Red carnations, in time,
became the symbol of a living mother. White ones now signify that
one's mother has died.
The first Mother's Day
proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910.
Oklahoma celebrated Mother's Day that year as well. By 1911 every
state had its own observances. By then other areas celebrating
Mother's Day included Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South America
and Africa. The Mother's Day International Association was
incorporated on December 12, 1912, with the purpose of furthering
meaningful observations of Mother's Day.The House of
Representatives in May, 1913, unanimously adopted a resolution
requesting the President, his Cabinet, members of Congress, and all
officials of the federal government to wear a white carnation on
Mother's Day. Congress passed another Joint Resolution May 8, 1914,
designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The U.S. flag
is to be displayed on government buildings and at people's homes
"as a public expression of our love and reverence for the
mothers of our country." President Woodrow Wilson issued the
first proclamation making Mother's Day an official national
The roles of women began changing
rapidly after that in both Canada and the United State. Women
started to explore the vast world beyond their duties as wife,
housekeeper, mother and homemaker, though they still took these
roles seriously. They continued to do so through World War One and
the Great Depression but World War Two drastically changed womenís
role in society. When thousands of men marched off to war, women
went to work as welders, riveters and in munitions plants. They were
the backbone of the war effort. They worked long hours, often for
far less pay then men made to do the same work. These women on the
Home Front laid the cornerstones of the Womenís Lib movement.
More women enrolled in social security from 1941 to 1946 then men.
They earned higher wages from 1941 to 1946 than ever before in
history. Minimum wage was twenty-five cents per hour but war plants
offered a one-dollar per hour starting fee. These women learned to
drive cars and operate machinery. They made more contributions to
the Red Cross and Salvation Army than ever before. The day the war
was over, the defense plants closed and sent the women back to
their homes. But the women had tasted independence and had found
they were capable of earning a paycheck. Over the next fifty years,
women would take a step up in the world. As the years progressed,
circumstances pushed women back into the work force. Divorce, death
and single parenthood as well as the high cost of living made it
necessary for women to work. Baby boomers gave their children too
many material things and todayís mothers work, not only out of
necessity but also because they want to have a career and be
independent. There is also the factor that they want to have money
to buy what they want when they want it. The busy life of a working
mother is not an easy one. They have to ensure their children are
in the hands of a responsible and loving caregiver. The role of a
mother has changed drastically since that Sunday in May 1907.
Today, women not only work but must also be homemakers as well as
mothers. Many are single parents and must play the role of both
mother and father. This is a big challenge but most women are up to
it and my hat is off to each and every one of them.
This is where the story becomes interesting. Thirteen years
later, in 1923, Jarvis filed a case to stop the Mother's Day
festival. She felt that the feeling with which she had started the
festival, had gone. Now companies were more interested in using
Mother's Day to make profits.
When Jarvis died at the age of 84 in 1948, she was very unhappy.
Never a mother herself, she had spent the entire fortune her mother
had left her in trying to stop the festival she had founded. And,
just before her death, she told a reporter that she was sorry she
had ever started Mother's Day. She did not succeed in bringing a
stop to the festival she had started.
Today, Mother's Day is celebrated in various countries across
the world. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium
also celebrate Mother's Day on the same day as the United States,
on the second Sunday in the month of May.
By the President of the United States of
This Mother's Day, we express our
heartfelt thanks to our mothers for their unconditional love and
guidance. We take time to recognize the many mothers who are
supporting their brave sons and daughters in the Armed Forces, and
the many others who are themselves serving proudly in defense of
America's freedom and security. The service and sacrifice of these
women reflect the best of our Nation. They and their loved ones
are in our thoughts and prayers.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W.
BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby
proclaim May 9, 2004, as Mother's Day. I commend mothers for the
important contributions they make to our society and encourage all
Americans to express their love, gratitude, and respect for
mothers, and to honor their mothers on this day and throughout the
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have
hereunto set my hand this seventh day of May, in the year of our
Lord two thousand four, and of the Independence of the United
States of America the two hundred and twenty-eighth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Happy Motherís Day to all
mothers everywhere from Rumela's web