Mother's Day (U.S.)

Mother's Day
Mother's Day
Examples of handmade Mother's Day gifts
Observed by United States of America
Type Cultural, commercial
Date Second Sunday in May
2010 date May 9
2011 date May 8
2012 date May 13
Observances Church services, distribution of carnations, and family dinners[1]
Related to Father's Day, Parents' Day

In the United States, Mother's Day is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well the positive contributions that they make to society.

Although many Mother's Day celebrations world-wide have quite different origins and traditions, most have now been influenced by the American traditions, including churchgoing, the distribution of carnations, and family dinners.[1]



First attempts to establish a holiday

The first attempts to establish a "Mother's Day" in the U.S. were mostly marked by women's peace groups.[2] A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. There were several limited observances in the 1870s and the 1880s but none achieved resonance beyond the local level.[3]

In 1868 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day" whose purpose was "to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War", and she wanted to expand it into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular.[3][4] Her daughter Anna Jarvis would continue her mother's efforts.

In New York City, Julia Ward Howe led a "Mother's Day" anti-war observance on June 2, 1872,[2][3][5] which was accompanied by a Mother's Day Proclamation. The observance continued in Boston for about 10 years under Howe's personal sponsorship, then died out.[6]

Several years later a Mother's Day observance on May 13, 1877 was held in Albion, Michigan over a dispute related to the temperance movement.[7] According to local legend, Albion pioneer Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped up to complete the sermon of the Rev. Myron Daughterty who was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly drunk. From the pulpit Blakeley called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley's two sons, both traveling salesmen, were so moved that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and embarked on a campaign to urge their business contacts to do likewise. At their urging, in the early 1880s, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of mothers.

Frank E. Hering, President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, made the first known public plea for "a national day to honor our mothers" in 1904.[8][9]

Holiday establishment

In its present form, Mother's Day was established by Anna Marie Jarvis, with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis on May 9, 1905. A small service was held on May 12, 1907 in the Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia where Anna's mother had been teaching Sunday school.[3] But the first "official" service was on May 10, 1908 in the same church, accompanied by a larger ceremony in the Wanamaker Auditorium in the Wanamaker's store on Philadelphia.[3] The next year the day was reported to be widely celebrated in New York.[10]

Jarvis then campaigned to establish Mother's Day first as a U.S. national holiday and then later as an international holiday.[2][3][11] The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of states followed quickly.[3] On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day and requesting a proclamation. On May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother's Day[12][13] as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.[12]

In 1934, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a stamp commemorating the holiday.[14]

In May 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives voted twice on a resolution commemorating Mother's Day,[15][16] the first one being unanimous (with 21 members not voting).[15] The Grafton's church, where the first celebration was held, is now the International Mother's Day Shrine and is a National Historic Landmark.[17]


Carnations have come to represent Mother's Day, since Anna Jarvis delivered 500 of them at its first celebration in 1908.[3][13][17] Many religious services held later adopted the custom of giving away carnations.[3] This also started the custom of wearing a carnation on Mother's Day.[8] The founder, Anna Jarvis, chose the carnation because it was the favorite flower of her mother.[18] In part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers in Mother's Day, the florists promoted wearing a red carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she was dead; this was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at churches.[8][19]

Related events

In the United States "Mother's Day Work Clubs" were organized by Anna Jeeve's mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832–1905), to improve sanitation and health in the area. These clubs also assisted both Union and Confederate encampments controlling a typhoid outbreak. They further conducted a "Mothers' Friendship Day" to reconcile families divided by the Civil War.


Commercialization of the U.S. holiday began very early, and only nine years after the first official Mother's Day had became so rampant that Mother's Day founder Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become,[20][21] spending all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.[20] She decried the practice of purchasing greeting cards, which she saw as a sign of being too lazy to write a personal letter. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother's Day, and she finally said that she "...wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control ..."[21]

However, Mother's Day is now one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions, having become the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States[22] and generating a significant portion of the U.S. jewelry industry's annual revenue, from custom gifts like mother's rings.[23] Americans spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts—like spa treatments—and another $68 million on greeting cards.[24]

Commercialization has ensured that the holiday has continued, when other holidays from the same time, like Children's Day and Temperance Sunday,[25] do not now have the same level of popularity.[26]

See also

Father's Day


  1. ^ a b J. Ellsworth Kalas (19 October 2009). Preaching the Calendar: Celebrating Holidays and Holy Days. Westminster John Knox Press. "Church attendance on this day is likely to be third only to Christmas Eve and Easter. Some worshipers still celebrate with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is deceased." 
  2. ^ a b c The History of Mother's Day from The Legacy Project, a Legacy Center (Canada) website
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Virgina Bernhard (2002). "Mother's Day". In Joseph M. Hawes, Elizabeth F. Shores. The family in America: an encyclopedia (3, illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 714. ISBN 1576072320, 9781576072325. 
  4. ^ Larossa, 1997, pag 172
  5. ^ The First Anniversary of 'Mother's Day'", The New York Times, June 3, 1874, p. 8: "'Mother's Day,' which was inaugurated in this city on the 2nd of June, 1872, by Mrs. Julia Ward Howards[sic], was celebrated last night at Plimpton Hall by a mother's peace meeting..."
  6. ^ Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day for Peace,
  7. ^ Mother's Day from "Albion's Historical Markers", maintained by an Albion, Michigan business
  8. ^ a b c "Annie's "Mother's Day" History Page". Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  9. ^ "Fraternal Order of Eagles: The History of Mother's Day". Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  10. ^ "They organize no crusade in the interests of so-called 'women's rights'...", NY Times, May 10, 1909
  11. ^ "The promoters of White Carnation Day have expressed their intention to make the observance international in character...", Poverty Bay Herald, 1 June 1909
  12. ^ a b Rice, Susan Tracey and Robert Haven Schauffler (1915). Mother's day: its history, origin, celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse. pp. 3–5.'s%20day&lr=&hl=ca&pg=PA3#v=snippet&q=woodrow&f=false. "in 1914 Congress passed a law, which Wilson signed on May 8, 1914, 'designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day', and authorizing and requesting that Wilson issue a proclamation 'calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.'" 
  13. ^ a b Today in History: May 9 Library of Congress
  14. ^ William H. Young, Nancy K. Young (2007), The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia (illustrated ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 520, ISBN 0313335206, 
  15. ^ a b House Vote #274 (May 7, 2008) H. Res. 1113: Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day (Vote On Passage)
  16. ^ House Vote #275 (May 7, 2008) Table Motion to Reconsider: H RES 1113 Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother’s Day
  17. ^ a b Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, National Historic Landmarks program, National Park Service, 
  18. ^ Leigh, 1997, pag. 260
  19. ^ Leigh, 1997, pag. 274
  20. ^ a b Louisa Taylor, Canwest News Service (2008-05-11). "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  21. ^ a b "Mother's Day reaches 100th anniversary, The woman who lobbied for this day would berate you for buying a card". MSNBC. Associated Press. 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  22. ^ Press releases:
  23. ^ Barnett Helzberg (2003). John Wiley and Sons. ed. What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffet. p. 80. ISBN 0471445398. 
  24. ^ Recession or not: Mom comes 1st ( | Local Business
  25. ^ The New York Times, November 17, 1888, Temperance Sunday's programme
  26. ^ Leigh, page 256 "... it might even have gradually withered away like other Protestant days of the early twentieth century such as Children's Day or Temperance Sunday."

External links

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