Mother’s Day celebrates American Centennial

Alabama Living Magazine

By Marilyn Jones

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.  Washington Irving

In 1914 Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation officially establishing the second Sunday in May a day to remember mothers. A day of phone calls and cards and gifts; a day to express “our love and reverence for the mothers of our country,” said Wilson.

So, how did the tradition begin?

Surprisingly it didn’t start in America or even in recent history. In fact, Mother’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis – mythical mother of the pharaohs.

It wasn’t until the 17th century that the tradition of honoring individual mothers began when, in England, the church decreed Mothering Day.

Children living in other areas of the country came home to visit and enjoy a family feast. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers.


Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.  Mildred B. Vermont

Americans Celebrate Mother’s Day

English settlers discontinued Mothering Day in America although the holiday continued to thrive in England. What would happen instead is that America would invent its own version of Mother’s Day centuries later.

The first North American Mother’s Day was actually conceptualized with poet Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.  “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” author was distraught over the death and carnage of the Civil War and called on all mothers to come together to protest war and violence.

She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood and proposed converting July 4 into Mother’s Day to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace. Eventually, however, June 2 was designated for the celebration.

With Howe’s financial backing, the first Mother’s Day celebrations were held in 18 cities. But, when she discontinued funding the event, Mother’s Day stopped. Nonetheless, the seeds for the idea of a special day to honor mother’s had been planted.


What is a mom but the sunshine of our days and the north star of our nights. Robert Brault

And so it began…

A West Virginia women’s group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis began to celebrate an adaptation of Howe’s holiday to reunite families and neighbors who had been divided because of the Civil War.

When Jarvis passed away, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. In 1908 her request was honored. On May 10 the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, W. Va., and a church in Philadelphia, Pa.

Today, Andrew’s Methodist Church is an International Mother’s Day Shrine. In 1992 it became a National Historic Landmark for its significance in the establishment of a national Mother’s Day celebration.

In 1908 Nebraska U.S. Senator Elmer Burkett proposed making Mother’s Day a national holiday at the request of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The proposal was defeated, but celebrations were still being held all over the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Anna M. Jarvis devoted herself full time to the creation of Mother’s Day, endlessly petitioning state governments, business leaders, women’s groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.


Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.  Marion C. Garretty

Mother’s Day in the 21st Century

Although Jarvis was incensed when she realized her beloved Mother’s Day was being commercialized, today it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States. In fact more than 70 countries celebrate Mother’s Day in one fashion or another.

According to the National Retail Foundation, consumers spent an average of $168 on mom last year; total spending reached $20.7 billion. Hallmark reports 96 percent of all Americans shop for Mother’s Day. Other retailers state it is the second highest gift-giving day of the year behind Christmas.

For restaurants, it is the busiest day of the year and more long distance telephone calls are made on this day than any other day of the year.

Perhaps Jarvis’ ideal for Mother’s Day has been sidestepped, but I can’t imagine not remembering a loving mother or grandmother; or an aunt, sister or friend who “mothers” whether they are a biological mother or not.

To every mother and every “mothering” woman, Happy Mother’s Day!


Remembering my Mother and Grandmother

Born in 1917, the second of four girls, my mother Hazel Louise Conner Jones was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken lady. Her father passed away when she was 10, leaving her mother, Mabel Olivia Hammerlund Conner, the responsibility of raising five daughters — ages newborn to 12 — on her own.

Both women were independent and intelligent, managing their way through the depression, WW II and beyond.

Although my grandmother passed away in 1978 and my mother passed away in 2008, they are always with me. This Mother’s Day, and every Mother’s Day, I honor the memory of these strong women who taught me so many valuable life lessons, guiding me with love and assurance.





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