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History Of Mother's Day

Mother's Day is the day when we thank the one person most responsible for our lives.
In most cases the one who nurtured us, taught us, protected us, and the one we can always rely on
to make us feel that we count for more than we usually do.

Although every day should be Mother's Day, It is the second Sunday in May that mothers are feted
more than at any other time of the year.
Cards, gifts, and flowers are sent to mothers.
It could be the number one day for dining out and for phone calls.

The tradition of honoring mothers is a practice that dates back to the Greek empire.
The ancient Greeks dedicated their annual spring festival to Rhea, the wife of Cronus and mother of various deities.

The Romans called this event, the Hilaria, by making offerings in the temple of Cybele,
to the mother of the deities (same mother) on the Ides of March.

Early Christians celebrated the festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of
the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ.
They adorned the churches with flowers, jewels, rich metals, and expensive gifts.

In England, an ecclesiastical order decreed this day as Mothering Sunday, and expanded
the holiday to include all mothers.
Besides attending church services in honor of the Virgin Mary, children went "a-mothering,"
returning home from the cities with gifts, flowers, and special cakes.

England was one of the first countries to set aside a day to recognize mothers.

In the United States, Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of Mother's Day in 1872.
Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, saw Mother's Day as being dedicated to peace.

In addition, on May 13, 1877, the second Sunday of the month, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped
into the pulpit of the Methodist-Episcopal Church and completed the sermon for the Reverend Myron Daughterty.
Allegedly, Daughterty was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son
to spend the night in a saloon.
Proud of their mother's achievement, Charles and Moses Blakeley encouraged others to pay tribute to their mothers.

In the 1880's the Albion Methodist church began celebrating Mother's Day in Blakeley's honor.

Mary Towles Sasseen, a Kentucky schoolteacher, began Mother's Day celebrations as early as 1887.
In 1904, Frank Hering of South Bend, Indiana began efforts to have a day set aside for the observance of Mother's Day.

No official Mother's Day existed until the twentieth century, when Anna M. Jarvis, a Philadelphia schoolteacher,
began organizing a national movement for the establishment of such a day.
This was done in honor of a mother to whom she was devoted.

That mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, organized a series of Mothers' Day Work Clubs in Webster,
Grafton, Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi, (West Virginia) to improve health and sanitary conditions,
before the beginning of the Civil War.

During the Civil War, Anna Jarvis urged the Mothers' Day Work Clubs to declare their neutrality
and to aid both Union and Confederate soldiers.
The clubs treated the wounded and regularly fed and clothed soldiers stationed in the area.
Her hard work was all the more touching considering the personal losses she was going through herself.
Four of her children died during the war, and eight of her twelve children died before reaching adulthood.
Near the end of the war, the Jarvis family moved to the larger town of Grafton, West Virginia.

Naturally, as West Virginians fought on both sides during the war (the state, incorporated into
the Union in 1864, was part of Virginia before the war), there was great tension
when the soldiers returned home.

In the summer of 1865, Anna Jarvis organized a Mothers' Friendship Day at the courthouse
in Pruntytown to bring together soldiers and neighbors of all political beliefs.
The event was a surprising success of friendship and peace.
Mothers' Friendship Day became an annual event for several years.

When Mrs. Jarvis died on May 9, 1905, her daughter, Anna was determined to honor her.
Unmarried and alone with her blind sister Elsinore, Anna was devastated by the loss of her mother.
She also felt that in this hard-working, industrialized nation of the turn-of-the-century, adult children
had become negligent in the treatment of their parents.

Daughter Anna led a small tribute to her mother at Andrew's Methodist Church on May 12, 1907,
and dedicated her life to establishing a nationally, recognized Mother's Day.

Receiving advice and financial assistance from John Wanamaker, she wrote countless letters to people
from all walks of life, including congressmen, asking them to set aside a day to honor mothers.

She asked the minister at her church to give a sermon in her mother's memory.

At Anna's request, on Sunday, 10 May 1908, the minister of the Andrew's Methodist Church
(the church in which her mother had attended and taught Sunday School) in Grafton, West Virginia
gave a Mother's Day observance, honoring Mrs. Jarvis' memory,
the church bell ringing 72 times in honor of each year of Mrs. Jarvis' life.

Daughter Anna handed out white carnations (her mother's favorite flower) to all who attended.
On the same Sunday in Philadelphia, a minister honored Mrs. Jarvis and all mothers
with a special Mother's Day service at Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia.

In 1910, the Governor of West Virginia proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day;
and a year later, every state celebrated it, as well as countries in South America, Asia, and Africa.

The Mother's Day International Association was incorporated on December 12, 1912,
for the purpose of promoting the day, and its observance.
In recognition of Jarvis' efforts, she went to Zurich as a delegate to the World's Sunday School Convention.

The House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution in May 1913 that all officials
of the federal government (including the president, the cabinet, and the House) to wear
white carnations on Mother's Day.

On May 7, 1914 Senator Heflin of Alabama and Senator Sheppard of Texas sponsored a bill
recommending President Wilson to designate the second Sunday in May as the official day
for expressing love and reverence for all mothers of the country.
President Wilson signed the resolution and the first established Mother's Day was May 8, 1914.

At first, Americans observed Mother's Day by attending the churches of their baptisms
and by visiting or writing letters to their mothers (like the "a-Mothering" in England centuries past).

Gradually, other sentiments were added, such as giving presents and candy, mailing cards, and sending flowers.
But it was these additions of gifts, flowers and candy that caused Anna Jarvis to grow downright bitter
over the "bastardization" of the holiday she created.

Jarvis grew so bitter & enraged by the commercialization of the holiday, that she filed a lawsuit
to stop a 1923 Mother's Day festival, and was even arrested for disturbing the peace
at a war mothers' convention where women sold white carnations -- Jarvis' symbol for mothers -- to raise money.

"This is not what I intended," Jarvis said.
"I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit!"

In 1934, the Postal Service issued a three-cent stamp of the painting of Whistler's Mother
as a special tribute to all mothers past and present, and Jarvis grew upset at that,
and traveled to Washington against what was being done to "her" holiday.

Jarvis soon lost her sister, lost her house, and had to have money raised by friends to put her
in a sanitarium when she lost her eyesight.
Jarvis died there in 1948.

Jarvis told a reporter shortly before her death that she was sorry she had ever started Mother's Day.

-- Adapted From Several Sources