The History of Mother's Day

Mothers deserve a special day.

Mothers deserve a special day.

Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May each year in the United States. It’s a time to honor your mother for all she does. It’s also a time when gifts, flowers, candy and outings are lavished on mothers. Mother’s Day is the ideal time to order a bouquet of flowers from a premium online source such as ProFlowers. To stick with tradition, order a bouquet that contains carnations, the first flower used to celebrate mothers.


Anna Jarvis is credited as being the founder of Mother’s Day, though she would later regret her actions. Jarvis wanted to honor her mother, who taught Sunday school in West Virginia and organized women’s groups to call for peace. From Philadelphia, Jarvis asked leaders at her mother’s Grafton, West Virginia, church to specify a date for mothers everywhere to be honored and remembered. The church agreed, and the first official Mother’s Day occurred on May 12, 1907.


Jarvis kept up her campaign and lobbied church leaders, business groups and state legislators around the country to declare a nationwide day for mothers. She convinced the powerful lobbying group called the World’s Sunday School Association to support her cause, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of May as the day for a national observance of mothers. While Jarvis started the tradition of wearing a white carnation to church on Mother’s Day in honor of her deceased mother, she balked at the consumerism that quickly built on the holiday.


The greeting card and flower industries quickly jumping on the Mother's Day bandwagon, turning it into a day that revolved around gift-giving. Anna Jarvis objected to the mass commercialism and led protests against the gift-giving trend. She tried to sue the federal government when they created a postage stamp for Mother’s Day that featured a picture of Jarvis’ mother. She succeeded in having the words “Mother’s Day” removed from the stamp, which ended up picturing her mother holding a vase of white carnations. She fought to remove the subsequent consumerism until she died in 1948, poor and childless. The Florists Exchange, a business group that opposed Jarvis’ many protests, paid for her funeral anonymously.

Other Traditions

Various forms of Mother’s Day abound around the world and throughout ancient history. Ancient Egyptians celebrated the goddess Isis, who was considered the mother of the pharaohs. Ancient Greeks honored the goddess Rhea, considered the mother of all gods, with an annual festival held near the vernal equinox. In India, an ancient festival honoring the goddess Durga continues today as a way to commemorate motherhood. Leaders in France were inspired by American soldiers and created their own national Mother’s Day on December 19 each year. The Chinese, Australians and many Asian cultures have adopted the U.S. version of Mother’s Day.

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