A Brief History of Mother’s Day: USA
USA: Mothers Day 2013: May 12th
Whilst some countries (e.g. the UK) have Mother’s Day celebrations that can be traced back to ancient pagan and early Christian festivals, the History of Mothers Day in the USA is much more recent and only goes back as far as the late 19th century. For a wider perspective on Mother’s Day..
There are two women who have played an important part in creating the annual celebration of Mother’s Day: Julia Ward Howe, the feminist and reformist who campaigned during the middle and latter part of the 19th century and Anna Jarvis with her campaigning work to honor mothers at the start of the 20th century.
Julia Ward Howe:
Renowned primarily for her lyrics to the Civil War song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, Julia Ward Howe was also an activist and campaigner for the liberation of women from the restrictions of their homes. Born in 1819, she was for her time, a woman remarkable for her literary accomplishments as well as her skill as a powerful orator.
As a mother she remained in an unhappy marriage rather than risk the loss of her children – a decision she called her “greatest sacrifice”.
Julia Ward Howe became an active member of the Women’s Suffrage movement helping to set up a number of Women’s organisations. These included the New England Women’s Club with Caroline Severance in 1868 and the American Woman Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone in 1869 as well as presiding over the New England Woman Suffrage Association and the Massachusetts Suffage Associations. As a writer she was a regular contributor to the Woman’s Journal that had been founded by Lucy Stone.
During the Franco-Prussian was of the 1870’s, Julia Ward Howe made an impassioned plea to women to rise up against the war. In 1872 she visited London to promote an International Woman’s Peace Congress and initiated a Mothers’ Peace Day in Boston to be observed on the second Sunday in June.
Julia Ward Howe widely championed the cause for her Mothers’ Peace Day to become an official holiday and celebration of Mothers Day. However, it was not until the later campaigning work of Anna Jarvis that a national holiday and date was finally agreed.
Born in 1864, Anna Jarvis became a teacher and active campaigner for a National Mothers Day in the USA. Anna had been influenced as a child by her mother reading a small prayer after a lesson on the Mothers of the Bible that ran “I hope that someone, sometime will found a memorial mothers’ day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it”.
Following her mother’s death many years later and with her observations that many grown up children were negligent towards their parents, Anna began an assertive campaign for a National Mothers Day that continued until its success seven years later.
One of Anna’s main purposes for Mothers Day was to bestow honor and dignity on women who were homemakers. The wearing of carnations featured in many of the early Mothers Day celebrations. The flower had been a favorite of Anna’s mother. White carnations were worn to honor deceased mothers and a red one for living mothers.
As a religious woman with her strongly held beliefs about dignity for mothers, Anna became disappointed at the way Mother Day became a commercialised event. Her view was that the day should be spent spending time with mothers and in honouring the memory of those who had passed on.
However, it must be recognized that the giving of a gift together with an appropriate greeting card has become the accepted practice on Mother’s Day not only in the USA but across many countries. Here are a few ideas of our own of things you can do with your Mom on Mother’s Day and some ideas for great gifts.