One of the most important holidays of the year is coming up on Sunday, May 13. That holiday is Mother’s Day, the day we honor our Mothers and all the contributions they have made to our lives. My Mother passed away when I was only 17 years old. Yet, in my short time with her, she influenced me in so many positive ways; and I am so thankful to her.
While I always take time on Mother’s Day to remember my Mother, I have never really thought much about the origin and history of this significant holiday. So, I decided to do a little research to find out more about Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day started with three different women in three different parts of our country and for three distinct reasons.
Surprisingly, the first known observance of Mother’s Day was not very far from us. It occurred on the second Sunday in May 1877, in Albion, Michigan, only about 100 miles north of Fort Wayne. On that day, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley finished the sermon at her church after the pro-temperance pastor became distraught because his son had been drunk. Mrs. Blakeley’s sons were so moved by her gesture, that they vowed to return to Albion every year to honor their mother and urged others to honor their mothers on that day too.
Another pioneer in the effort to establish Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. After the Civil War, Mrs. Howe started a peace crusade. She initiated in Boston a Mother’s Peace Day, which by 1873 was celebrated by women in 18 cities in the U.S. on the second Sunday in June. This day was one of the precursors to our modern Mother’s Day celebrations.
The woman who was the most influential in establishing Mother’s Day was Anna Jarvis. She was the daughter of Ann Jarvis, who in 1868 worked to establish Mother’s Friendship Day to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. Ann Jarvis, originally from Grafton, West Virginia, had wanted to expand Mother’s Friendship Day into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular.
Anna Jarvis, who had moved to Philadelphia, took over her Mother’s cause. A small service was conducted on May 12, 1907, in her Mother’s church, Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal in Grafton, and the first official service was in the same church the next year on May 10. Mother’s Day was declared as a holiday by West Virginia in 1910 and other states quickly followed.
On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day; and on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a Proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a stamp commemorating the holiday. The Grafton Church, where the first celebration was conducted, no longer operates as a church and now has become the International Mother’s Day Shrine and a National Historic Landmark.
But the story of Mother’s Day does not end there. Later in her life, Anna Jarvis became very disillusioned with how commercial Mother’s Day had become. In her opinion, what had started as a religious service to honor mothers had evolved into a commercial holiday.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day during church services and with cards, gifts and sometimes by taking our Mothers out to lunch or dinner. I know those of you whose mothers are still living will remember on Mother’s Day to thank them for their guidance and help. And, if your mother has passed on like mine, I know you will remember her in your thoughts and prayers.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee