I love my Mammy
The modern Mother’s Day holiday was created by Anna Jarvis as a day for
each family to honor its mother, and it’s now celebrated on various days
in many places around the world. It complements Father’s Day, the
celebration honoring fathers.
This holiday is relatively modern, being created at the start of the
20th century, and should not be confused with the early pagan and
Christian traditions honoring mothers, or with the 16th century
celebration of Mothering Sunday, which is also known as Mother’s Day in
In most countries the Mother’s Day celebration is a recent holiday
derived from the original US celebration. Exceptions are, for example,
the Mothering Sunday holiday in the UK.
Different countries celebrate Mother’s Day on various days of the year
because the day has a number of different origins.
One school of thought claims this day emerged from a custom of mother
worship in ancient Greece, which kept a festival to Cybele, a great
mother of Greek gods. This festival was held around the Vernal Equinox
around Asia Minor and eventually in Rome itself from the Ides of March
(15 March) to 18 March.
The ancient Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, that was
dedicated to Juno, though mothers were usually given gifts on this day.
In addition to Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day is celebrated in
many countries on March 8.
In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and
“Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association.
“She was specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a
singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a
plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”
This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the
law making official the holiday in the U.S., by the U.S. Congress on
bills, and by other U.S. presidents on their declarations.
Common usage in English language also dictates that the ostensibly
singular possessive “Mother’s Day” is the preferred spelling.
Great Britain and Ireland
Mothering Sunday is a Christian festival celebrated throughout Europe.
Secularly it is used as a celebration of motherhood, and is synonymous
with Mother’s Day as celebrated in other countries; the latter name is
also increasingly used.
A religious festival celebrating motherhood has been existent in Europe
since approximately 250 BC when the Romans honoured the mother goddess
Cybele during mid-March. As the Roman Empire and Europe converted to
Christianity, Mothering Sunday celebrations became part of the
liturgical calendar as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent to
honour the Virgin Mary and the “mother church”.
During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church for
a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local
church, or more often the nearest Cathedral. Anyone who did this was
commonly said to have gone “a-mothering”, although whether this preceded
the term Mothering Sunday is unclear. It was often the only time that
whole families could gather together, if prevented by conflicting
The Epistle for the fourth Sunday in Lent as set out in the Book of
Common Prayer gives a special place to the theme of maternal love:
Galatians 4:26 states that “Jerusalem which is above is free; which is
Mother of us all.”
The other names attributed to this festival include Simnel Sunday,
Refreshment Sunday and Rose Sunday. Simnel Sunday is named after the
practice of baking Simnel cakes to celebrate the reuniting of families
during the austerity of Lent. Because there is traditionally a
lightening of Lenten vows on this particular Sunday in celebration of
the fellowship of family and church, the lesser-used label of
Refreshment Sunday is also used, although rarely today.
Rose Sunday is sometimes used as an alternative title for Mothering
Sunday as well, as is witnessed by the purple robes of Lent being
replaced in some churches by rose-coloured ones. This title refers to
the tradition of posies of flowers being collected and distributed at
the service originally to all the mothers, but latterly to all women in
the congregation. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, however, asserts that
“the Golden Rose, sent by the Popes to Catholic sovereigns, used to be
blessed at this time, and for this reason the day was sometimes called
‘Dominica de Rosa’.”
This Sunday was also once known as “the Sunday of the Five Loaves”, from
the traditional Gospel reading for the day. Prior to the adoption of the
modern “common” lectionaries, the Gospel reading for this Sunday in the
Anglican, Roman Catholic, Western-Rite Orthodox, and Old Catholic
churches was the story of the feeding of the five thousand (for
instance, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer stipulates St John’s Gospel
Another tradition associated with Mothering Sunday is the practice of
“clipping the church”, whereby the congregation form a ring around their
church building and, holding hands, embrace it.
For some Church of England churches, it is the only day in Lent when
marriages can be celebrated.
In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants
were given a day off to visit their mothers and other family members.
Mothering Sunday remains in the calendar of some Canadian Anglican
churches, particularly those with strong English connections.
A selection of handmade Mother’s Day gifts.
Mother’s Day (North America)
Mother’s Day holiday, in the United States and Canada, celebrates
motherhood generally and the positive contributions of mothers to
society. It falls on the second Sunday of each May. It is the result of
a campaign by Anna Marie Jarvis (1864–1948), who, following the death of
her mother on May 9, 1905, devoted her life to establishing Mother’s Day
as a national, and later an international, holiday. The first
observances of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were held in the state
of West Virginia.
“Mothering Sunday” in the UK and Ireland is on the fourth Sunday of
Lent. It was originally a time when Catholics were supposed to travel to
attend Mass in their “Mother Church” (the regional cathedral) rather
than in their local parish. By the Reformation, it had changed into an
occasion for children to visit parents. An 1854 source mentions a
couplet: “On ‘Mothering Sunday,’ above all other/Every child should dine
with its mother.”
“Mother’s Day Work Clubs” organized by Anna Jarvis’s mother, Ann Maria
Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905), to improve sanitation and health in the area.
These clubs also assisted both Union and Confederate encampments
controlling a typhoid outbreak, and conducted a “Mothers’ Friendship
Day” to reconcile families divided by the Civil War.
The “Mother’s Day” anti-war observances founded by Julia Ward Howe in
1872, it did not take root. It continued in Boston for about ten years
under Howe’s personal financial sponsorship, then died out.
Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day, celebrated on June 2nd, was first
proclaimed around 1870 by Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation,
and Howe called for it to be observed each year nationally in 1872. As
originally envisioned, Howe’s “Mother’s Day” was a call for pacifism and
disarmament by women. See Mother’s Day Proclamation.
Early “Mother’s Day” was mostly 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.
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, 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 travelling salesmen, were so moved that
they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and embarked on a
campaign to urge their business contacts to do likewise. At their
urging, in the early 1880s, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set
aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of
On February 4, 1904, South Bend, Indiana resident Frank E. Hering made
the first Public Plea and started his own campaign for a national
observance of “Mother’s Day” in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Jarvis’s Mother’s Day
In 1907, Mother’s Day was first celebrated in a small, private way by
Anna Marie Reinoehl in Grafton, West Virginia, to commemorate the
anniversary of her mother’s death two years earlier on May 9, 1905.
Reinoehls’s mother, named Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, had been active in
Mother’s Day campaigns for peace and worker’s safety and health since
end of American Civil War. 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 Andrews
Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton (this church is now the Mother’s
Day Shrine). Grafton is, thus, the place recognized as the birthplace of
The subsequent campaign to recognize 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 general
appreciation of mothers. The first official recognition of the holiday
was by West Virginia in 1910. A proclamation designating the second
Sunday in May as Mother’s Day was signed by U.S. President Woodrow
Wilson on May 14, 1914.