In the 19th century groups of mothers whose sons fought or died in the Civil War would meet. In the years before the Civil war Ann Jarvis already helped to start Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to teach local women how to care for their children. In 1868 she organised a committee for Mother's Friendship Day: a day for mothers to gather with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. Ann Jarvis wanted it to be an annual memorial for mothers. She died in 1905 before the annual celebrations actually were established, but her daughter Anna Jarvis continued her mother's work in honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
First official celebration in 1908
The first official Mother’s Day celebration was at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia in May 1908. It was organized by Anna Jarvis and was financially backed by John Wanamaker, a store owner from Philadelphia who held a Mother’s Day event on the very same day. Anna Jarvis continued her efforts and wanted Mother's Day to be added to the national calendar by writing letters to newspapers and politicians. By 1912 Mother's Day would be celebrated annually in many states and towns and in 1914 president Wilson signed a measure that established Mother's Day as an official annual celebration on the second Sunday in May!
Anna Jarvis was sorry she invented Mother's Day
The holiday was very popular and would soon be heavily commercialized by card companies and florists. Jarvis soured on the commercial interests associated with Mother's Day and around 1920 she urged people to stop buying gifts and flowers for their mothers. She was sorry she invented Mother's Day and said it had to be a day of sentiment, not profit. She would even lobby to see Mother's Day removed from the calendar again. Until her death in 1948 Jarvis fought against charities that used Mother’s Day for fundraising and the commercialism of florists, card manufacturers and other companies that were destroying her Mother’s Day.
Other Mother’s Day pioneers are Julia Ward Howe, Juliet Calhoun Blakely, Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering. Howe led a 'Mother's Day for Peace' anti-war observance that was held in New York on June 2, 1872. It was a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace and continued in Boston for about 10 years before it died out. Blakely was an activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s and Sasseen and Hering worked on organizing Mother's Day in the late 19th century.
Nowadays Mother's Day is heavily commercialized by advertisers and retailers like card manufacturers and florists. Florists even invented the idea of wearing pink/red flowers (to show your mother is still alive) or white flowers (to show your mother died) on the holiday to boost their flower sales. Read all about Mother's Day traditions in the United States.
Mother's day dates
Upcoming Mother's Day dates in the United States