The first attempts to establish a “Mother’s Day” in the U.S. were usually marked by women’s peace groups. 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.
In 1868 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” for the purpose of reuniting “families that had been divided during the Civil War.” Her desire was to create an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular.
There were a variety of regional events held in various states in the late 1800’s and 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.
In its present form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Marie Jarvis, following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis, with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker. 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.
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 in Philadelphia. She then campaigned to establish Mother’s Day first as a U.S. national holiday and then later as an international holiday.
Mother’s Day was first declared an official holiday by the state of West Virginia in 1910; other states soon followed. 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 as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
I doubt that many families today celebrate Mother’s Day to reunite sons who fought on separate sides of the American Civil War; but it does tend to be the one day that brings families together – for mom’s sake!
Not everyone had a mother worthy of celebration but if you did and if she is still alive – let her know how much you appreciate her!