By Lynn Bowman

In keeping with the theme of this edition of our paper, I decided to write about the origin of the third most important holiday, Mother’s Day.  While doing my research, I quickly went to google and typed in “Origin of Mother’s Day” to get a quick overview of what was out there. It prompted me, “Did you mean: origin of Mother’s Day?”  I thought that a bit odd at first because searches typically exclude punctuation, suffixes and other minor notations that really shouldn’t affect the search.  But I soon learned there was a distinct difference between Mother’s Day and Mothers’ Day.

About the quick “snapshot research” attempt on Google…I really thought I would see one concise origin to this annual celebration held on the second Sunday in May that everyone agreed upon.  That was not really the case. At this point, I realized I needed to dig a little deeper and assess different accounts of the first Mother’s Day celebration. Oh, by the way, I know I should never admit that I research anything on the internet because we ALL know that everything you read on the internet HAS to be true.  Just a quick laugh there for anyone who was thinking that.

At a glance, I first read that civilizations celebrating mothers and motherhood go back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.  This would not be the American origin to Mother’s Day, but an interesting side note because, for a millennium, peoples have understood the importance of Mothers to their existence. Other ancient people worshiped fertility gods fashioned in the shape of pregnant women idols; again, not our origin.

For many years in England and parts of Europe, “Mothering Sunday” was a celebration held on the fourth Sunday in Lent where members would return to their “mother church” for an annual service.  Some believe that over time, this tradition may have become more of a secular holiday and then giving rise or even merging with the American ideal of Mother’s Day.

  Photo of Ann Reeves Jarvis, the inspiration behind Mother’s Day in the US.  Special Photo    
Photo of Ann Reeves Jarvis, the inspiration behind Mother’s Day in the US.  Special Photo  

But the most compelling history that I found was an article written by Brian Handwerk, for National Geographic and originally published May 9, 2014.  The whole article can be found online and I recommend everyone that enjoys history to read it.  The story he recounts began in the 1850’s with Ann Reeves Jarvis, a West Virginian that organized Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions to lower the death rate of infants.  Gaining traction and growing in numbers, these groups later nursed injured soldiers during the Civil War. Mother’s Friendship Day picnics were organized after the war to help unite the Country.  These gatherings continued for years, but when Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis was inspired to organize the first Mother’s Day observance in 1908.

  In the US, Anna Jarvis is recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day.  Special Photo
In the US, Anna Jarvis is recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day.  Special Photo

Through her effort and other like-minded women that had previously organized the work clubs, the celebrations spread from city to city and from state to state.   In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially set aside the second Sunday in May for the holiday.

Anna Jarvis’ vision was for each person to celebrate his/her OWN mother.  She wanted everyone to spend time with their mother and to thank them for all that they have done.  This is why it is important to say Mother’s Day and not Mothers’ Day. I am glad to see that while searching Google, there was a distinction between the two.  So on this holiday, follow Anna Jarvis’ vision and honor your mother.

Thank you Donnis. I love you.

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