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Mother’s Day: Celebrating Motherhood in the USA Since 1908

by Sydney Klein
Posted on Apr 27, 2017

Mother’s Day—a holiday dedicated to celebrating motherhood—has been celebrated in the United States since 1908, but it has roots that reach farther back in history. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations celebrated motherhood by worshipping and offering sacrifices to goddess, such as Artemis and Cybele. Centuries later, Anna Jarvis created her own holiday to celebrate the sacrifices that mothers made for their children. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday in the United States. Since then, mothers across the nation have been honored on this holiday each year.

 In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday in the United States.

The founding mother of Mother’s Day was a woman named Anna Jarvis. After losing her own mother in 1905, Jarvis wanted to create a way to remember her recently deceased mother. Jarvis’s intention was to remember her mother by honoring the sacrifices her mother made while raising her children. In May of 1908, Jarvis launched her first Mother’s Day event in Grafton, West Virginia.

The event was held at a local Methodist church, and was even financially supported by John Wanamaker, a department store owner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jarvis’s first Mother’s Day event was successful, so her next step was to petition to make it a national holiday. After years of writing to politicians and newspapers, her idea finally reached President Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson officially declared the second Sunday in May to be celebrated as Mother’s Day in 1914.

In May of 1908, Jarvis launched her first Mother’s Day event in Grafton, West Virginia.

Jarvis intended this day to be celebrated in a simple fashion: mothers wearing white carnations while attending church or visiting with their children. Her intention of having a close, personal holiday failed when florists, card companies, and confectionaries began to capitalize on this unique holiday. Furious, Jarvis denounced Mother’s Day and spent the rest of her life trying to revoke its stature as a national holiday.

Although Jarvis became disappointed in the capitalization of her holiday, the purpose of Mother’s Day still remains—to honor the sacrifices that mother’s make during their years of motherhood. Today, mother’s receive material possessions on this holiday, such as cards, flowers, and chocolates, but they also receive things that cannot be bought. According to a 2010 study conducted by Reuters, Mother’s Day has the highest rate of phone calls compared to any other national holiday in the USA. Even if families cannot be together on Mother’s Day, families find time to thank the mothers in their lives for the gift of motherhood.

Mother’s Day has the highest rate of phone calls compared to any other national holiday in the USA.

Unfortunately, Mother’s Day usually occurs towards the end of the Spring semester for most college students. Final papers are being typed, students are studying for tests and group projects are being finalized. With all of this end-of-the-year work, it is difficult for some students to spend the day with their mother’s. But, there are options for students wanting to celebrate Mother’s Day with their mothers. Students can visit the campus bookstore and buy a Mother’s Day card for their mother, insert a heartfelt note, and then send it off at the campus mail room. Students who are unable to spend the weekend at home may consider inviting their families to campus to celebrate Mother’s Day. And, if neither of these options work for you, consider picking up the phone and giving your mother a call.