History of a celebration

Year to year, Mothers Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Millions of people worldwide take the opportunity to thank and honour the woman that gave birth to them. It has a very interesting history of when it all began.

Mother's Day celebrations date back in history to the 1850s. Anna Reeves Jarvis arranged Mothers Work Days to encourage women to participate in various causes including giving assistance to the poor, improving sanitation and lowering the risk of infant death. During the civil war, these groups helped wounded war victims.

In the early 1870s, Julia Ward Howe put forth a proposal that an annual Mothers Day celebration for world peace occur in Boston. This was widely celebrated in Massachusetts and other eastern states on June 2nd until the turn of the century. The intent was to have a focus on all women and their contribution to social and political movements, not for celebrating one's own mother.

The notion of celebrating a person's own mother was put forth by Anna Reeves Jarvis's daughter, also called Anna Jarvis. In 1891, daughter Anna left her mother in West Virginia to move to Tennessee, and later to Pennsylvania. Moving away was an important part of her crusade to honour mothers, as separation and a deep seeded longing for home resonated with many sons and daughters who had left their parent's homes. 

After her mother's death in 1905, Jarvis, who had never married nor had children of her own, wrote many letters to friends in regard to her mother's sacrifices she had made and of her love and faith. In May 1907, she arranged a special service in the church in West Virginia where her mother had been a parishioner. She soon began to imagine celebrations in honour of all mothers.

Jarvis argued that existing holidays were biased toward men, and began a letter writing campaign to politicians, newspapers and church leaders across America urging them to establish a specific day in honour of all mothers. To ensure this was celebrated on a holy day, she chose a Sunday. The second Sunday in May was the closest day to her dear mother's death.

The first official celebration of Mothers Day was held in 1908 in a few towns and cities across America. Jarvis later established the Mothers Day International Association to aid in promoting the day. Within a couple of years, many mayors and governors  had issued proclamations for a mothers day. President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 issued a presidential proclamation declaring the second Sunday in May be officially Mothers Day. Thus began a nationwide observance.

What better way to show Mum love and appreciation than breakfast in bed. 

Note: Mother orientated festivals were celebrated in other cultures long before Jarvis proposed the current celebration. The Romans held a yearly ceremony in honour of fertility. 'Mothering Sunday' in preindustrial England, was observed on the fourth Sunday during Lent. Originally meant for one to visit their church of baptism, the holiday later allowed people to return home for a day, usually with a small gift for their mother. 

Reference: Coleman, M 2014, The Social History of the American Family,  SAGE Publications, California

Cott, N 1994, Social and Moral Reform, Walter de Gruyter, Munich