Mother’s Day History

The Holiday for celebrating our Mothers.

Carl Harding, Writer

May has arrived, and with it, Mother’s Day, which will take place on May 8 this year.  Mother’s Day is a celebration in which we honor mothers across the world for all the good things they have done for their families. This day is also used to recognize the influence that mothers have on our society. The history of Mother’s Day begins around the mid-1800s with social activist Ann Reeves Jarvis who is also known as “Mother Jarvis”. During the American Civil War, Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia to bring attention to the unsanitary living conditions of the South and to teach mothers how to properly and safely raise their children. Jarvis also organized women’s brigades to help aid wounded men in the Confederacy and the Union during the Civil War. After the war, she continued her efforts to bring people together, but her biggest success would happen in 1868 when public officials called upon her and her followers to find a way to end the post-war strife in West Virginia. Jarvis and her members planned a “Mother’s Friendship Day” at the Taylor County Courthouse in Pruntytown, West Virginia.  Jarvis shared a message of reconciliation with veterans and their families and put aside their views of the war and come together. Jarvis continued to promote the idea of Mother’s Day up until her death in 1905. 

After her mother’s death, Jarvis’s daughter Anna M. Reeves wanted to memorialize her mother’s life and she began campaigning for a national holiday to honor all mothers. On May 10, 1908, Reeves held the first Mother’s Day celebration at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother and all other mothers. This is where the idea of celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May was born. That same year, Congress rejected a proposal to make the holiday an official one, jokingly stating they would also have to proclaim a “Mothers-in-laws Day”. But thanks to her efforts, all U.S states observed the holiday by 1911, with some states even recognizing it as a local holiday. All of Reeve’s efforts finally paid off in 1914 when president Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that designated Mother’s Day as a national holiday that would be celebrated on the second Sunday of May to honor all mothers. After the holiday was declared a national holiday, Anna began to protest the way it was being celebrated by companies such as Hallmark. Hallmark began selling cards to celebrate the holiday. Reeves believed that they had misinterpreted and exploited the holiday for company profits. Reeve would protest the celebration for the rest of her life until her death in 1948. 

Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated by more than over 50+ countries around the world and is celebrated in many different ways such as church services, festivities, and gift-giving.