In 1872, Julia Ward Howe called for women to support disarmament as requested in her June 2, 1897 “Mother’s Day for Peace.” The purpose was not to honor mothers but to organize pacifist mothers. In the 1880s and 1890s, several attempts were made to establish an American’s mother’s day holiday but these efforts did not get past the local level.
The modern Mother’s Day was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, who held a memorial for her mother in St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna’s campaign to create a recognized holiday began in 1905 when Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War. Anna wanted to carry on this work.
In 1908, Congress rejected a proposal for an official holiday, but Anna is credited with persisting until 1911 when all states observed the holiday, with some recognizing it as a local holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor mothers. Mother’s Day is now recognized as a day to honor the mother of the family, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
Much to Anna Jarvis’s disapproval, Mother’s Day quickly and very successfully became commercialized. In the United States, it is one of the biggest days for sales of flowers and greeting cards. It is the biggest holiday for long-distance calls and exhibits the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many celebrate with white carnations to honor deceased mothers and colored carnations for the living.
Mother’s Day 2020 is different from any past celebration, with the current health emphasis on safety and health. Remember mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, caregivers with telephone calls, video conferencing, cards, emails – and keep all of these important women and yourselves safe and healthy.