Mother's Day is celebrated in the United States on the second Sunday of May in order to recognize mothers, motherhood, and maternal bonds. The true intention of Mother's Day is not to shower mom with presents and gifts, although that doesn’t hurt, but it is to take the time to honor mothers and the act of motherhood.
History in the U.S.
Mother’s Day emerged from several points of interest in the United States, but it was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872.
Howe was one of the earliest proponents who wished to dedicate a day of commemoration for peace. Her 'Mother's day Proclamation,’ published in 1870, was an anti-war statement that called on women to shape the course of society and oppose war as a reaction to the hundreds of thousands of sons lost in the Civil War.
''Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly: 'We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.'''
Several years after Ward's attempt, a Mother's Day observance was held in Albion, Michigan, on May 13, 1877, when the Albion pioneer Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stood up to complete Rev. Myron Daughtery's sermon that day. It was during the temperance movement, and the Reverend was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly intoxicated. Blakeley approached the pulpit and called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley's two sons (who were traveling salesmen) were so moved by her speech that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her. Both sons embarked on their own campaign thereafter to urge their business contacts to do the same for their mothers. It was because of their urgings that the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of all mothers in the early 1880s.
Still not officially recognized at the time, Frank E. Hering, the President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, is cited as making the first known public plea for ''a national day to honor our mothers'' in 1904.
The first official celebration was organized by Anna Marie Jarvis. Anna’s mother, a minister’s daughter, was a Sunday school teacher from West Virginia who organized women’s brigades during the Civil War to care for soldiers on both sides of the conflict. When Anna’s mother passed away in 1905, Anna missed her mother very much and felt we all too often fail to show appreciation to our mothers when they are alive. With the help of friends, Anna began a letter-writing campaign for a national Mother’s Day holiday.
Anna persuaded her mother’s church in West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death. On that second Sunday of May, Anna supplied Carnations, her mother’s favorite flowers, at the first service. Anna chose white carnations because they represented the purity and endurance of a mother’s love. Over time, a tradition developed in which red and pink carnations are used for living mothers and white ones for those that have passed.
By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. Congress passed a resolution in 1914 designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, with President Woodrow Wilson issuing the first proclamation making it an official U.S. holiday.
Around the World
The celebration of motherhood also goes much farther back in history than in the U.S. The ancient Greeks honored Rhea, the mother of all Greek goddesses, at an annual springtime feast, and ancient Romans held a spring festival in honor of the Roman goddess Cybele.
Motherhood is celebrated in many national commemorations around the world. More than sixty countries celebrate Mother’s Day together, many on the same second Sunday in May, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Turkey.
In the United Kingdom…
There celebration is known as Mothering Sunday and dates back centuries to when it was considered important for people of the church to visit their home or ‘’mother’’ church at least once a year. The holiday was observed during Lent and the time became one for family reunions and celebrations. Children and domestic servants were allowed the day off to see their family. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday is a time today to recognize mothers.
Mother’s Day, or Dia de las Madres, is a hugely popular occasion celebrated on May 10 in Mexico. Schools, churches, cities, and civic groups sponsor special events and the tradition is for sons and daughters to come to their mother’s house on the eve of Mother’s Day.
Other countries also celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10, including Bahrain, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.
France (last Sunday in May)
Lebanon (1st day of Spring)
Argentina (2nd Sunday in October)
Norway (2nd Sunday in February)
Sweden (last Sunday in May)
South Africa (1st Sunday in May)
Yugoslavia/Serbia (two weeks before Christmas)
Did You Know…
Every September, Americans honor military mothers who have lost a child during active duty on Gold Star Mother’s Day. The holiday was set by Presidential proclamation since 1936 for the last Sunday in September. Gold Star Members was a support group started by Grace Darling Seibold after her son was killed in combat in France during WWI.
Every Mother’s Day, the President of the United States issues an annual proclamation that reaffirms national significance of mothers to the American people.
Stepmoms have their own special holiday on May 1 in the United States.
There are more than 83 million mothers living in the United States and approximately 2 billion mothers worldwide.
56 percent of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 are mothers and between the ages of 40 and 44 82 percent of women are mothers.
The average age a woman becomes a mom for the first time is approximately 25. In 1970, it was 21 years old.