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How Did Mother’s Day Become A Holiday?

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How Did Mother’s Day Become A Holiday?

When is Mother’s Day 2019?

Mother’s Day is always the second Sunday in May. In 2019, it’s Sunday, May 12th.

2020: Sunday, May 10
2021:  Sunday, May 9

The Interesting History of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a special day in which we honor mothers each year. It’s a wonderful occasion to shower mom with flowers, goodies, brunch—all things to let her know how much she is appreciated.  But how did the “holiday” originate?

The origin of Mother’s Day has been associated with Miss Anna M. Jarvis. Jarvis (b. May 1, 1864 – Nov. 24, 1948), an especially devoted daughter who was concerned about the neglect shown to mothers by grown children.

mother's day - photo of Anna Jarvis who started the holiday

Anna M. Jarvis started Mother’s Day; via Wikimedia Commons – Olairian [Public domain]

After her own mother’s death in 1905, Jarvis grieved. The following year, she asked friends to come to her church in Grafton, West Virginia, on the first Sunday in May to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death. In 1907, Jarvis promoted a Mother’s Day service at the church, and she donated carnations (her mother’s favorite flower) to every mother in the congregation.

Anna Jarvis worked hard to promote the holiday, writing letters to churches, politicians, and city leaders. She had enlisted the help of John Wanamaker (the pioneer of marketing and advertising) and Henry J. Heinz (of Heinz Ketchup fame) to help her start a movement, and it worked.  Jarvis’ efforts resulted in a resolution ultimately being passed in Congress, dedicating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. By 1911, all of the states in the union had Mother’s Day proclamations. And she was very clear that the holiday was to be called “Mother’s” Day (singular) —”to honor the best mother who ever lived—yours.”

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day an annual national observance.

Too Commercial?

Unfortunately, as time went on, Anna M. Jarvis was soured to the Mother’s Day holiday, saying it had gotten too commercial. So much so, that by 1920, she started convincing people to stop buying flowers and other gifts for mothers, even going head-to-head with the floral industry and other industries who helped her initially fight for the holiday. Her ideal gift to mothers, she thought, was to write a heartfelt letter. “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card,” she said. She came to loathe the holiday until her dying day in 1948, but her holiday lives on.

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1 Lucinda J Dustin { 05.01.19 at 3:51 pm }

Since my mother is my best friend I guess every day I speak to her or share stories, email is mother’s day. I am grateful someone started Mother’s Day and that it is now noted. Too bad it isn’t a national holiday. It isn’t less important than Christmas or Thanksgiving or New Year’s. Without Mother there would not be those other holidays.

2 Tyks, Marietta { 05.01.19 at 7:38 am }

Frank E Hering made the first public plea for Mother’s Day in 1904 on the steps of the old opera house in Indianapolis, Indiana. Anna Jarvis as in your story started hers in her church in 1907. My Masters Thesis was on Mother’s Day and Frank Hering’s other accomplishments. The book is at the University of Notre Dame.

3 Cathy { 05.14.16 at 10:36 pm }

Such a nice story as I’ve always wondered why it became a holiday. I was born on Mother’s Day!! ☺️

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