Mothers Day History, Significance, And Things You Probably Didn't Know
Updated: Feb 7
Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. In the United States, Mother’s Day 2021 will occur on Sunday, May 9. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar.
Dates and celebrations of this special day vary, but Mother's Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards, and other gifts. And here is a summary of how the holiday was born.
History of Mother’s Day
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
But the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.
Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
Did you know? More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. These holiday chats with Mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37 percent.
Who Started Mother’s Day, and Why?
Before we dig into Mother’s Day history, here is a fun fact.
Mother’s Day started as an anti-war movement.
The origins of Mother's Day celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace.
In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.