Sunday, May 13th, is Mother’s Day this year – the U.S. holiday celebrating and honoring mothers. Many are unfamiliar with how, where, and why the holiday first began. It may surprise you to learn that honoring mothers has quite a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt and Greece.
Worship of Mother Deities in Ancient Times
The people of ancient civilizations worshipped several mother deities, putting motherhood on a pedestal and organizing celebrations around them. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Goddess Isis, for example, while ancient Greeks revered Cybele and Rhea. Although these civilizations did not create a single day to celebrate mothers, they started the tradition of honoring mothers around the world.
Ann Jarvis’ Community Works in the Late 1800s
A woman named Ann Reeves Jarvis from West Virginia organized something called “Mother’s Work Day Clubs” to improve sanitation in her hometown and to teach women how to care for their children back in 1858. In 1868, Jarvis created “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” intended to encourage peace between Union and Confederate families after the end of the Civil War.
Julia Ward Howe’s “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870
Around the same time as Jarvis’s work, a suffragette named Julia Ward Howe started a call to action to promote world peace. Howe called on mothers to promote peace through a “Mother’s Peace Day,” every June 2nd. Howe’s proclamation came about in 1870, while her campaign for the day itself occurred in 1873.
Anna Jarvis’ Campaign in 1905
In 1905, Anna Jarvis (Ann Jarvis’s daughter) decided to memorialize her mother by starting a campaign that resulted in Congress passing a Mother’s Day resolution in 1914, under President Woodrow Wilson. It was in 1914 that Mother’s Day become an official national holiday, to take place on the second Sunday in May each year.
“Mothering Sunday” Revival in 1920
In the United Kingdom, “Mothering Sunday” came into existence in the 1800s with the intention to honor the Mother Church. A woman by the name of Constance Smith revived Mothering Sunday in the UK and wanted its meaning to spread to all mothers, not just the church. She published a booklet in 1920 called The Revival of Mothering Sunday, which marked the start of an official Mother’s Day in the UK.
Mother’s Day Today
Today, families in America celebrate Mother’s Day by spending time with loved ones, calling their mothers, and buying gifts. While Anna Jarvis resented the commercialization of Mother’s Day with cards and flowers (enough to lobby the government to remove the holiday from the calendar), there are other ways to honor mothers around the world. Show your mother how much you care this Mother’s Day in your own special way.