Some of the material on this page is from Wikipedia’s Mother’s Day page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day, Mother’s Day Proclamation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day_Proclamation, and Mother’s Day (United States) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day_%28United_States%29. As always, we recommend the reading and researching of Wikipedia for our advanced and beyond TOEIC students.
How did Mother’s Day get started?
Different countries celebrate Mother’s Day on various days throughout the year because the day has a number of origins. One school of thought claims this day emerged from the ancient Greek custom of mother worship. Mother worship – which included a festival honoring Cybele, a great mother of the gods, and Rhea, the wife of Cronus – was held around the Vernal Equinox in Asia Minor and eventually in Rome itself, from the Ides of March (March 15) through March 18. We cannot definitively answer the question of Mother’s Day origin because the answer is forever tangled up in many histories. However, we can see how the roots of this contemporary holiday have flowed from the Middle East to Egypt to Greece to Rome through Europe to England to the United States today.
American Mother’s Day history
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe issued her Mother’s Day Proclamation in Boston. In 1872, Howe issued a national call for the day to be observed annually. Julia Ward Howe, a social activist, conceived of Mother’s Day during the American Civil War as a vehicle to unite women against war. She wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation during that time. As originally envisioned, Howe’s “Mother’s Day” was a call to women to support pacifism and disarmament. The original Mother’s Day Proclamation text was as follows:
Mother’s Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn?
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.?
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country?
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
“Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means?
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,?
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask?
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality?
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient?
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Unfortunately, Howe failed in her attempt to obtain formal recognition for a Mother’s Day for Peace. However, her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she had called Mothers’ Work Days. During the Civil War, Jarvis had mobilized women to work for better sanitary conditions on both sides of the conflict. In 1868, Jarvis began working to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.
The first Mother’s Day celebrated in the United States
The first known observance of Mother’s Day in the U.S. occurred in Albion, Michigan, on May 13, 1877, the second Sunday of the month. According to local legend, an Albion pioneer, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley, stepped up to complete the sermon of the Rev. Myron Daughterty, who was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly drunk. In the pulpit, Blakeley called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley’s two sons, both traveling salesmen, were so moved that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and they embarked on a campaign to convince their business contacts to do the same. In the early 1880’s, at the urging of the Blakeley men, the Albion Methodist Episcopal Church set aside the second Sunday each May to recognize the special contributions of mothers.
Early Mother’s Day celebrations
Early “Mother’s Day” celebrations were largely 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.
First modern Mother’s Day
In 1907, modern Mother’s Day was first celebrated in a small, private way by Anna Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia, to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death two years earlier on May 9, 1905. Jarvis’s mother, also named Anna Jarvis, had long been active in Mother’s Day campaigns for peace and workers’ safety and health. The younger Jarvis launched a quest to get wider recognition of Mother’s Day. The celebration organized by Jarvis on May 10, 1908 involved 407 children with their mothers at the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, now the International Mother’s Day Shrine. It is because of this that Grafton is recognized as the birthplace of modern Mother’s Day.
The spread of Mother’s Day
After that, the custom caught on – spreading eventually to 45 states.
Part of the campaign to promote Mother’s Day was financed by clothing merchant John Wanamaker. As the custom of Mother’s Day spread, the emphasis shifted from the pacifism and reform movements to a more general appreciation of mothers. The first official recognition of the holiday was by West Virginia in 1910. On May 14, 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Only nine years after that first Mother’s Day holiday, commercialization of the U.S. holiday had became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of the holiday. Mother’s Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. holidays.
Mother’s Day Today
Today Mother’s Day is a day for celebrating motherhood and thanking mothers. In the United States, it is held annually on the second Sunday in May. Tradition calls for the wearing of roses or carnations on Mother’s Day – a red one if one’s mother is alive, white if she has died, and pink if one is not certain.
Mothers typically receive cards, flowers and gifts on this day. Some people bake cakes to show their mothers how much they are appreciated. Although some gifts, like cakes, are homemade, the majority are store-bought. It is no accident that clothing merchant John Wanamaker worked so hard to bring Mother’s Day into the consumer mainstream.
People also call and write their mothers. In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service was delayed for eight days because of the amount of mail. Telephone networks are also at their busiest on Mother’s Day and it is not unusual to hear an “all circuits are busy” message when trying to place a call on this holiday.
Mother’s Day is the number one holiday for floral purchases in the entire year, trumping even Valentines Day. Originally intended to spread the message of pacifism, Mother’s Day has become yet another part of the commercialism that runs rampant in modern American life.