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History of Mother's Day (Serious, Not Humor)
Date: Sent Saturday, May 13, 2006
Category: None
Rating: 3.40/5 (129 votes)
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Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day was not conceived in the boardroom of greeting card companies. The earliest tributes to mothers date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Christians celebrated this festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of Mary, mother of Christ. In England this holiday was expanded to include all mothers and was called Mothering Sunday.

In the United States, Mother's Day started nearly 150 years ago, when Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She called it "Mother's Work Day."

In 1905 when Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter, also named Anna, began a campaign to memorialize the life work of her mother. Legend has it that young Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, "I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother's day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers."

The memorial we now know as Mother's Day was founded by Miss Anna Jarvis in tribute to her mother. The first fully organized Mother's Day program was held at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, Taylor County, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. The honored mother had already laid the foundation for such a day in the last fifty years of her life.

On May 10, 1908, the third anniversary of Mrs. Jarvis' death, fully-prepared programs were held at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton and in Philadelphia, launching the observance of a general memorial day for all mothers. The Grafton service was planned and prepared by Miss Jarvis. She sent a telegram, read by Mr. L. L. Loar, which defined the purpose of the day:

"To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tie for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought...

"This day is intended that we may make new resolutions for a more active thought to our dear mothers. By words, gifts, acts of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day, and constantly keep in memory Mother's Day; when you made this resolution, lest you forget and neglect your dear mother, if absent from home write her often, tell her of a few of her noble good qualities and how you love her."

On the occasion of the first official Mother's Day service on May 10, 1908, Miss Anna Jarvis sent 500 white carnations, chosen by herself, to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia. In a telegram to the congregation, Miss Jarvis stated that:

"Each one present will be given a white carnation; mothers will be given two, in memory of the day.

"These five hundred carnations are given by a loyal, loving daughter in honor and sacred memory of her good and faithful mother, Mrs. Ann M. Jarvis, who worked faithfully and earnestly for twenty long years, as an earnest teacher in our Sunday School, who only a few years ago departed to that better world to reap the reward of her labors here.

"Every one is asked to wear this flower.

"The white carnation is preferred because it may be thought to typify some of the virtues of motherhood; whiteness stands for purity; its lasting qualities, faithfulness; its fragrance, love; its wide field of growth, charity; its form, beauty..."

The following year she sent 700 carnations for the same purpose, and over the years, sent over 10,000 carnations as personal gifts to the Andrews Church. Carnations - red for living and white for deceased - are now worn world-wide as emblems of the purity, strength, and endurance of motherhood.

The first Mother's Day proclamation was issued by Governor William E. Glasscock of West Virginia on April 26, 1910. In May 1914, Representative Heflin of Alabama and Senator Sheppard of Texas introduced a joint resolution, at the request of Miss Jarvis, naming the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, and the resolution was passed in both Houses. President Woodrow Wilson approved it, and William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State, proclaimed it. In the President's proclamation that followed, he ordered that the flag be displayed on all government buildings in the U.S. and foreign possessions. Later Mr. Heflin, co-author of the resolution, said: "The flag was never used in a more beautiful and sacred cause than when flying above that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America."


The second Sunday of May has become the most popular day of the year to dine out in the United States. Telephone lines record their highest traffic, as sons and daughters everywhere take advantage of this day to honor and to express appreciation of their mothers.

Received from Thomas S. Ellsworth.

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