Every May women around the world are celebrated for their sacrifices and contributions to the family. With all that Mom does for her children, it would seem like the concept of honoring her would be ages old. However, it really wasn’t until relatively recently that a celebration of mothers was instituted.
In ancient Greece individuals honored Rhea, mother of the gods. Christians also celebrated Mary the mother of God. But it wasn’t until the 1900s before the general mothering population was celebrated in earnest.
Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis was a young Appalachian homemaker who, beginning in 1858, attempted to improve sanitation and nursing procedures through women’s clubs and what she called “Mothers Friendship Day.” It wasn’t Anne Marie, but rather her daughter, Ann Jarvis, who created the Mother’s Day that we celebrate today.
Anna spent many years caring for her aging and ailing mother. Anne Marie died on May 9, 1905, and Anna missed her terribly. Anna noticed that many children failed to respect and honor their mothers while they were alive, and it wasn’t until after they died that these children recognized what they had lost in their parent. She intended to start a Mother’s Day to honor mothers.
In 1907, Anna Jarvis attempted to establish Mother’s Day to “honor mothers, living and dead.” She started the campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. Together with her friends, Jarvis started a letter-writing campaign to urge ministers, businessmen and congressmen to declare a national Mother’s Day holiday.
Her efforts paid off. The first Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10, 1908 and honored the late Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis. After this initial celebration, Mother’s Day caught on. The Mother’s Day International Association was established on Dec. 12, 1912, to promote and encourage meaningful observances of the event. And on May 9, 1914, a presidential proclamation declared that every year the second Sunday in May would be observed as Mother’s Day.