On Sunday, May 14, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day when we honor our mothers and all the contributions they have made to our lives. My mother passed away when I was only seventeen, but in the short time we were together she influenced me in so many ways for which I am ever thankful.
While I always take time on this day in May to remember my own mother, I had never really thought much about the origin and history of this holiday, so I did a little research some time back and discovered that Mother’s Day was actually started by three different women in three different parts of the United States.
A pioneer in the effort to establish Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe; yes, the same woman who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Mrs. Howe started a peace crusade. She initiated, in Boston, a Mother’s Peace Day on the second Sunday in June, an event that grew each year until by 1873 women in over 18 cities across the United States were gathering annually in what became a precursor to our modern Mother’s Day celebration.
Another early observance of Mother’s Day occurred not very far from us, in Albion, Michigan, on the second Sunday in May 1877. On that day, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped up to the pulpit in her church after the pro-temperance pastor became too distraught over the misbehavior of his son to finish the sermon. Mrs. Blakeley’s sons were so moved by their mother’s gesture that they vowed to return to Albion every year after to honor her, and they urged others to honor their mothers on that day as well.
The woman who was the most influential in establishing Mother’s Day was Anna Jarvis. She was the daughter of Ann Jarvis, who in 1868 worked to establish Mother’s Friendship Day to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. Ann Jarvis, originally from Grafton, West Virginia, had wanted to expand Mother’s Friendship Day into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular.
Anna Jarvis, who had moved to Philadelphia, took over her mother’s cause. A small service was conducted on May 12, 1907, in her mother’s church, Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal in Grafton, and the first official service was held there the next year on May 10. Mother’s Day was declared a holiday by West Virginia in 1910 and other states quickly followed.
On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day; and the next day President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first official national Mother’s Day. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the first postage stamp commemorating the holiday. The Grafton Church, where the first celebration was conducted, has now become the International Mother’s Day Shrine and a National Historic Landmark.
Later in her life, Anna Jarvis became disillusioned with how commercialized Mother’s Day had become. In her opinion, the day that started as a religious service recognizing the civilizing influence of mothers had too much changed its focus toward just getting people to spend their money.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day during church services and with cards, gifts and sometimes by taking our mothers out to lunch or dinner. I know those of you whose mothers are still living will remember to thank them on this day for all their guidance and support. And, if your mother has passed on like mine, I know you will remember her in your thoughts and prayers.
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