Her Passion; Her Success: The Story

Image via queen of constance

"Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime."
William Shakespeare

     Wishing a wonderfully happy Mother's Day to all mothers, the world over.  I hope your day is a special one, filled with love and memories-in-the-making.  I began researching the origin of this sweet day and enjoyed learning some things I didn't before know.  Below is a somewhat condensed version of the story behind the day and the women who fought to make it possible:

     In England, during the 1600's, the tradition of Mothering Day was honored even among the working class.  Servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit with their families.  It was considered a special time, this Lenten Sunday, to enjoy a feast, with mother as the guest of honor.

     When the first settlers came to America, they discontinued the tradition due to harsher conditions, little time and long work hours.  The British tradition continued and centuries later, a new American tradition, completely different, would evolve.

     The first North American Mother's Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day proclamation in 1870, years after she penned the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  The Civil War had so distressed her that she wrote this proclamation, calling for an international Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood.  In it, the pathos and pain of viewing the relentless- and in her opinion, useless- killings of sons is tangibly felt as she writes:

"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:...
We women of one country 
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

     Julia Howe wanted July 4th to become Mother's Day in order to dedicate the nation's anniversary to peace.  June 2nd was designated instead, and in 1873 women from 18 North American cities observed the new tradition.  Julia Howe funded many of the celebrations, but when she stopped, most of the traditions also stopped.  Even still, she had planted the seed that would one day bloom into our nation's annual Mother's Day.

     A West Virginia women's group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis began to celebrate an adaption to Julia Howe's tradition.  A Mother's Friendship Day was held in order to reunite families and neighbors that had been divided between the Union and Confederate sides of the war.

     After she died, her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, campaigned for the creation of an official Mother's Day.  She petitioned the church where her mother had taught Sunday School for 20 years and her request was honored.  On May 10th, 1908 the first Mother's Day tradition was celebrated in a church in West Virginia and another church in Pennsylvania.  The West Virginia event drew over 400 people and Anna arranged for white carnations- her mother's favorite- to adorn the patrons.

     In 1909, 46 states, Mexico and Canada were holding Mother's Day services.  Anna committed herself full-time to the creation of Mother's Day petitioning state governments, business leaders, women's groups and churches.  In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother's Day and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance and the second Sunday in May became officially known as Mother's Day.

     As the holiday flourished, it led into commercialization and exploitation, disturbing Anna greatly by how it had evolved from what it initially was.  She eventually sued to stop a Mother's Day event that was contradicting what she had set out to begin, and was later arrested for disturbing the peace as she protested another event that was selling flowers.

     Anna died in 1948, blind, poor and childless, being cared for in a mental institution.  Her care, ironically, was anonymously paid for by the Florist's Exchange.  By this time, over 40 countries observed Mother's Day.

     Today, we still hold to the tradition started long ago by Anna Jarvis, the seed planted by the passionate proclamation of Julia Ward Howe.  We celebrate our mothers by giving them a token of our affection, whether handmade or store-bought.  Perhaps just a card.  Maybe dinner out.  If it were up to Anna, it would be a long, handwritten letter expressing our love, and two white carnations pinned close to Mama's heart.  What would her reaction be if she knew it was now a 14 billion dollar industry?  I can only guess.

{I obtained my information from Mother's Day Central and some portions of this post are a direct quote from same.}
h. rae


  1. What an interesting story! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Have a lovely day.

  3. Always a pleasant visit...love the story and the roses are lovely. Thank You Sincerely, augustana


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