Millions will be spent on flowers, jewelry, and other cherished gifts for these mothers, grandmothers, spiritual mothers, and surrogate figures who are “mothers” indeed–nurturers of those in need of a mother’s love and care.
But how did this tradition get started?
Contrary to popular belief, Mother’s Day traditions weren’t dreamed up by the greeting-card folks. The original Mother’s Day holiday can actually be traced back to the time of ancient Greeks, who held spring celebrations in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. Mother’s Day did not become an official holiday in the United States until the early 1900s. Pioneering women of their times, Anna Reeves Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis all contributed that the day came into existence.
Anna Reeves Jarvis
In the 1850’s Anna Reeves Jarvis organized Mother Work Day Clubs that focused on providing medicine for the poor and on improving sanitary conditions. Then, during the Civil War, Mothers Day Clubs cared for all soldiers—irregardless of which side of the battle they had chosen. After the war ended, Anna continued her peacemaking by working to bring people together to heal the deep wounds of those who had been divided by the war.
Julia Ward Howe
In the 1870s, Julia Ward Howe began organizing “Mothers Peace Day.” After the blood bath of the civil war, she focused on voting rights for women and world peace. When war broke out between France and Prussia, she wrote an impassioned plea to mothers saying, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
Following unsuccessful efforts to pull together an international peace conference, and while the Franco Prussian war was still in progress, she began a global appeal to women. For the next 30 years, Americans celebrated Mothers Day for Peace on June 2. During this time, mothers played a leading role in the abolitionist movement to end slavery and launched campaigns to protect children and to improve the working conditions of women.
Anna Reeves Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis is generally credited with the establishment of Mother’s Day in America. She tirelessly organized a letter writing campaign so that the work that her mother waged for peacemaking would not be forgotten. In 1914, her efforts paid off when Congress passed the Mothers Day resolution, appointing it as a national holiday to be celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May.
Today, the celebration of Mother’s Day is celebrated across 46 countries (though on different dates) and is a hugely popular affair.