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Mother’s Day


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Mother’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated in different ways throughout the world. Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908, then it became an official holiday in 1914. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day most commonly falls on the second Sunday in May and traditionally involves presenting mothers with flowers, cards and other gifts. Celebration of mother and motherhood can be traced back to ancient Greeks and Roman. They had festivals in honor of the mother goddess Rhea and Cybele. Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church near their home—for a special service. Overtime this tradition became more of a secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s. The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided by the Civil War. Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873, Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” to be celebrated every June 2. Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Alboin, Michigan, in late 1870s. The duo of Mary Towels Sasseen and Frank Hering, Meanwhile, both worked to organize Mother’s Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mother’s Day.” The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s because of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia. Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

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Mother’s Day