The history of Mother's Day

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Sunday, mothers across Barry County will be honored by their families. Some mothers will receive flowers and gifts and others will simply enjoy a relaxing day with their children and loved ones. Americans have celebrated this annual holiday for over 100 years. Although today's Mother's Day looks much different than the initial celebration, the concept of honoring mothers remains the central theme of the holiday.

Julia Ward Howe, author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," organized the first Mother's Day celebration in North America in 1870. The event was founded in an effort to bring mothers together to protest the carnage of the Civil War. Howe intended for the day to be used as a celebration of peace. By 1873, women's groups in over a dozen North American cities were observing the annual holiday.

Later, Anna Reeves Jarvis led a West Virginia women's group to celebrate an adaptation of Howe's Mother's Day holiday. The celebration was designed to re-unite families and neighbors who had been divided during the Civil War. After Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, campaigned for the creation of an official Mother's Day holiday.

The first official Mother's Day celebration was held at Andrews's Methodist Church in Grafton, W.V., on May 10, 1908. A church in Philadelphia, Penn., also celebrated the holiday. During the celebration, the younger Jarvis distributed white carnations, her mother's favorite flower, to each mother in attendance. Today, carnations continue to be used to honor mother's on the annual holiday.

The YMCA proposed legislation for a national Mother's Day holiday in 1908. Although the proposal was defeated, 46 states were celebrating the holiday by 1909. In 1912, West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother's Day. Two years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that declared the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Mother's Day as we know it was started and promoted by some very strong, influential women. Today, the holiday gives each of us an opportunity to honor the strong women who have been influential in our lives. I hope the following poem, "Ode to Mothers," which was written by Kristin F. McKendall, will help inspire some of you to plan a special Mother's Day celebration for your mother this year.

Lindsay Reed

Mothers cannot do it all

But surely do they try.

Mothers hear the angel's call,

To comfort all who cry.

Mothers for themselves may fall,

For others they will fly.

Mother's bear the weight of all,

For their children, they would die.

A Mother's gift extends beyond

All bounds of time and space.

Her lovingness and nurturing

Make Earth a peaceful place.