Learn the HERStory of Mother’s Day


Happy Mother’s Day!

Every woman I know is a “mother”. Some of you are saying, “I don’t have any children; I’m not a mother.” I stand by my statement. Whether they are yours or somebody else’s, you love those children and/or furbabies.

Women are generally nurturers. I know women that have more nurture genes than others and some that have very little. But by and large, most of the women I know are “motherly”.


HERstory of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day dates back to the ancient annual spring festival dedicated to honor the Greek maternal goddess Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.

Ancient Romans’ spring festival, called Hilaria, was dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. The Ides of March celebration began with offerings in the temple of Cybele and lasted for three days.

Early Christians set aside the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. In the 1600s, England expanded the holiday to include all mothers and called it Mothering Sunday. Following a prayer service to honor the Virgin Mary, children gave gifts and flowers to their own mothers in tribute. The custom of Mothering Sunday died out almost completely by the 19th century.

Our modern day U.S. Mother’s day began when Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist, feminist, activist, writer, poet, and famous for her Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” initiated a Mothers’ Peace Day observance on the second Sunday in June 1870. Her passionate appeal to women, the Mother’s Day Proclamation, urged women to revolt against war. The annual celebration for peace was observed in Boston for several years.

In 1872, Julia suggested that June 2 be celebrated as Mother’s Day and that it should be a day dedicated to peace. She called for women to gather once a year to listen to sermons, present essays, sing hymns or pray, all in the name of promoting peace. Julia’s constant appeal paid off somewhat as the idea spread, but it was not made official and didn’t last.

Anna Jarvis, the Mother of Mother’s Day, never married and never had children. Anna was inspired by her own mother, Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis. Mrs. Jarvis, an activist and social worker, concerned about sanitary conditions in Appalachian communities, founded Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to provide aid and education to mothers to help reduce disease and infant mortality

Club women raised money to buy medicine, hired women to work for families where the mother suffered from tuberculosis or other health problems, and developed programs to inspect milk long before there were state requirements. The club members declared neutrality and treated the wounds of and fed and clothed both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Mrs. Jarvis once ended a Sunday school lesson with this prayer: “I hope that someone, sometime will found a memorial Mother’s Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.

Anna was devastated when her beloved mother passed away in 1905. Anna’s anguish over her mother’s death culminated with a resolution to memorialize her mother by working toward a day that would honor all mothers. On May 12, 1907, Anna held a celebration in her mother’s memory and asked people to wear white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to remember all mothers.

On May 10, 1908, the church in Grafton, West Virginia where her mother taught Sunday school held a second Mother’s Day celebration. Anna sent 500 white carnations.

Anna’s passionate letter writing won out and Mother’s Day caught on. Her campaign was aided by department store mogul John Wanamaker and food processing industrialist H.J. Heinz.

The floral industry supported Anna’s Mother’s Day campaign with donations and speaking engagements. White carnations were the “must-have item” for Mother’s Day. Florists sold out of them quickly, so the floral industry began promoting the practice of wearing red flowers to honor living mothers and white flowers in memoriam of deceased mothers.

In 1909, Senator Henry Moore Teller (D-CO) called the campaign for Mother’s Day “puerile”, “absolutely absurd”, and “trifling”. He announced, “Every day with me is a mother’s day.” Senator Jacob Gallinger (R-NH) deemed the very idea of Mother’s Day an insult to assume the memory of his late mother “could only be kept green by some outward demonstration on Sunday, May 10.”

Nonetheless, by 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. On May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating Mother’s Day as the “second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”


Mother’s Day Gifts

The floral, candy, and greeting card industries have certainly profited from Mother’s Day. Type “mother’s day gifts” in an internet search and hold on to your hat! Thousands (probably millions) of ideas for gifts for Mom. There are even lists for what NOT to get Mom.

As a mom, I can say that I cherish the gifts my children have given me over the years: dandelions, misshapen plaster hands, cards, flowers, candy, you-name-it. But the most precious gifts are those of “time”.

Children that were agonizingly underfoot grow up and become adults that we never see. Life gets crazy and there just aren’t enough hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, or months in a year to visit and talk.

Go ahead and buy mom those flowers and send her a card, but go the extra mile and make time to visit – even if it’s a phone call. She just wants to hear your voice.

To those of you whose Mom is no longer of this earth, honor her by celebrating you with your friends and loved ones. She is so proud of the person you have become.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

The Best Wishes,

Mary Mackey

TBW President 2016-2018

Communication. Collaboration. Connection. Synergy

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” — Oprah Winfrey