Mother’s Day is a special time for families at Smith Mountain Lake and all over the United States. I have never realized how much history this day encompassed until recently. Here are some of the tidbits of information I found regarding the origins of Mother’s Day.
In early 16th century England, groups of early Christians began celebrating a day to honor Mary, the Mother of Christ. The Catholic Church later named this day “Mothering Sunday” and it was used to honor all mothers, not just Mary, and was celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter).
Often on Mothering Sunday, servants would have the day off so they could go home to spend the day with their mothers. Many folks made what they called a “mothering cake”, to take along as a gift.
Unfortunately, as time passed and the New World was colonized this wonderful tradition was gradually lost and forgotten.
Many years later in the United States, Mother’s Day was begun again by some, using the model of the original British day honoring Mothers. This was first suggested after the American Civil War by social activist Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Julia began a peace crusade and begged women of all ages to rise in a stance against war. She wrote what was considered by many to be the original Mother’s Day proclamation.
Although Howe failed in her attempt to establish a legal Mother’s Day for Peace, she played her part in the history of Mother’s Day in the sense that this was to be the precursor to the modern Mother’s Day celebrations. To acknowledge Howe’s achievements a stamp was issued in her honor in 1988.
Howe was greatly influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young wife and Mother who began “Mothers Friendship Day”. In the 1900s Jarvis was organizing women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions and was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women in her Mothers Friendship Clubs the basics of nursing and sanitation. It was her daughter, Anna Jarvis who was finally able to establish the roots of the Mother’s Day we celebrate today.
Shortly after her Mother died, Anna Jarvis decided to dedicate her life to developing a day to “honor mothers, living and dead.” She started the campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. With her friends, she started a letter-writing campaign to urge ministers, businessmen, and congressmen to declare a national Mother’s Day holiday. She hoped Mother’s Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.
The first Mother’s Day was observed on May 10, 1908. After this, it gained widespread recognition across the United States. Anna’s dream came true on May 9, 1914, when the Presidential Proclamation declared the 2nd Sunday of May to be observed as Mother’s Day to honor mothers.