Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day . . . Did you know the celebration has roots in Philadelphia?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Did you know that the celebration of Mother’s Day in the US has roots tied to Philadelphia? A little history behind today’s special Mother’s Day. Early on, “Mother’s Day” in the United States was mostly marked by women’s peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. There were several local celebrations in the 1870s and the 1880s, but none achieved resonance beyond the local level.

In 1886 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” whose purpose was “to unite families that had been divided during the Civil War”, and she wanted to expand it into annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Her daughter Anna Jarvis would continue her mother’s effort shortly later.

In its present form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Marie Jarvis, following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis on May 9, 1905, with the help of a Philadelphia merchant called John Wanamaker. Legend has it, Anna Jarvis, who was named after her mother, knelt before her mother’s gravesite in 1905 and pledged to her mother she would continue to honor mothers everywhere and would help establish an official Mother’s Day to honor both living and deceased mothers.

A small service was held in May 12, 1907 in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia where Anna’s mother had been teaching Sunday school. Anna Jarvis passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church – one flower for each mother in the congregation — as they celebrated the second anniversary of her mother’s death. The white carnations were her mother’s favorite flower. But the first “official” service was in May 10, 1908 in the same church, accompanied by a larger ceremony in the Wanamaker Auditorium in the Wanamaker’s store on Philadelphia. She then campaigned to establish Mother’s Day as a U.S. national holiday, and later as an international holiday.

In discussing the importance of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis said, “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit. A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother, and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of states followed quickly. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation, declaring the first national Mother’s Day; a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

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