Mother’s Day always falls on the second Sunday in May. It is widely celebrated as a special day to honor our mothers and the crucial role of motherhood in our society.
Although the concept of mother’s day has ancient roots, what’s the history of Mother’s Day in America? When did the second Sunday in May come to be?
Here’s the story…
Anna Jarvis started her campaign to create “Mother’s Day” in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis — also known as “Mother Jarvis” – was an Appalachian homemaker and peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. She also created “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to address public health issues, especially from polluted water.
Anna Jarvis was the 9th of her mother’s 11 children. Only four of her siblings survived to adulthood. The others died of diseases such as measles, diphtheria, and typhoid fever, which were common in the Appalachian communities. Anna wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started, such as combatting poor health and sanitation conditions in the area.
She also wanted to set aside one day a year to honor all mothers because, as she said, “they were the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
In 1908, the U.S. Congress denied Anna’s proposal to make Mother’s Day a federal holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-Law’s Day.”
So, Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908 – and that is widely considered the date when the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in America.
Thereafter, Anna Jarvis made it a personal crusade to spread her idea. She printed and distributed booklets, and met with various civic organizations. She bombarded politicians and other public figures with telegrams and letters.
Two years later, in 1910, Governor William Glasscock proclaimed that the second Sunday of May would be Mother’s Day in West Virginia. Other states soon followed.
And then, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson finally signed a federal bill designating the second Sunday in May as “Mother’s Day” – dedicated “to the best mother in the world, your mother.”
In 1962, St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia was designated as the International Mother’s Day Shrine, a memorial to Anna Jarvis and all mothers, everywhere. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.