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The Interesting History of Mother’s Day

(Probably Not What You Would Expect)

a bouquet of pink flowers laying on it's side on a white piece of cloth

If you’re like me, you might have always wondered if Hallmark invented Mother’s Day. That would have been genius, right? Cards now cost at least six or seven dollars a pop!

I was kind of curious about this, so I did a little bit of research. I wanted to find the origin of Mother’s Day, and it’s a little bit of a sad, bittersweet story, in my opinion. But, misery loves company, so I’m going to share this with you!

a tan envelope surrounded by pink flowers and light green leaves

My history teaching son will hopefully be proud that I’m teaching a little history, myself. If not him, then my 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Brose, would be proud. Of course, he was really old back then, so I think Mr. Brose, himself, is probably history! (Was that joke not ok?)

The lesson begins – The first woman

Mother’s Day was created by three women, appropriately enough. The first woman, Ann Reeves Jarvis, created “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in the mid-1800s, to combat unsanitary living conditions. The high infant mortality rate concerned her, so she wanted to educate and help the moms who needed it the most.

During the Civil War, she had also organized women’s brigades to encourage women to help without caring about which side their husbands had chosen. Can you imagine the bypartisenshipness (not a real word, I know) of it all! How very diplomatic of her. After the war, she created a Mother’s Friendship Day to promote peace and bring together former Union and Confederate families.

And then came Julia…

The next amazing woman was Julia Ward Howe, who volunteered during the Civil War for the U.S. Sanitary Commission to help make hospitals more hygienic and ensure sanitary conditions for the care of wounded soldiers. This only helps to prove that women are always the ones to clean things up, am I right? Side note: She is also the person who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I love that!

In 1870 (approximately), Julia called for a “Mother’s Day for Peace”, to celebrate peace and the end of the war, and she wrote a “Mother’s Day Proclamation”. It expressed that mothers should band together to prevent the cruelty of war and waste of life, since so many mothers had to experience the loss of their husbands and sons.

US flags with headstones on green grass
Veteren’s Memorial

Mother’s Day becomes a full-fledged holiday

Our final Mother’s Day creator was Anna Jarvis, the daughter of the fist creator I mentioned, Anna Reeves Jarvis. After her mom died in 1905, she wanted to pay tribute to her mother by campaigning for a national day to honor motherhood and the sacrifices they make.

Anna held a memorial service at her church to celebrate her mom’s lifetime of activism in May of 1907. The following year, on May 10, her church held a service to celebrate all mothers, and that’s where the tradition of Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May was created.

She was first able to have Mother’s Day acknowledged as a local holiday, in Philadelphia, but she then went on to have President Woodrow Wilson sign a bill designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday, Mother’s Day, in 1914. Church services were held on Mother’s Day, celebrating all Mothers, living or dead.

Anna went on to promote the idea of wearing carnations on Mother’s Day. You would wear a pink or red one if your mother was living, or a white one, if your mom was deceased.

a pink carnation flower on a white background

Ok, here comes the sad part that I promised you. Eventually, Mother’s Day became more commercialized, with the sale of cards or bouquets of flowers and other gifts. Anna didn’t like the idea that the day that was created to honor mothers, became a way for people to make money. She disliked it so much, that she spent her last years trying to get the holiday abolished, but she finally died in a sanitarium, in 1948, from dementia. Sad, right?

Personally, I think Anna was doing a disservice to her mom by trying to undo everything all three of these women had done. Yes, things became commercialized, but that didn’t stop it from being a day that we all pause and recognize our moms for all they’ve done for us.

Here’s to the moms!

We celebrate the moms who paused or gave up their careers to stay home and raise their kids. We celebrate the moms who tore their hair out from worrying their children would get hit by a bus, hang out with the “wrong kids”, or get their hearts broken. We celebrate the moms who had sleepless nights from feeding their newborns every two hours, or stayed up all night with their sick child, or couldn’t go to bed until they knew their kids were home, safe and sound, late at night.

My own Tribute

I honor my mom, on Mother’s Day. Sadly, I would have to wear a white carnation, because I lost my mom 6 years ago, and I honestly think about her and miss her every single day. Mother’s Day remains a little bittersweet for me because of that.

Obviously, that’s the bitter part. But the sweet part is that I get to celebrate the fact that I have 3 very loving, thoughtful and kind sons (objecively speaking), who have made my “sacrifices” not seem like sacrifices at all. I would do it all over a million times, because it helped make them who they are today, and they are really good people.

a mom holding a sleeping newborn baby
Me, in my first few days of being a new mom (27 yrs ago)

I also have the bonus of having a very caring mother-in-law, who is here still, and she is a big part of our lives. And two years ago, I gained the sweetest daughter-in-law, when my son got married. So, I will definitely celebrate being a mom on Mother’s Day, this year.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten about the dads, but they get their own day in June, so we’ll talk about that next month. This post is just about the moms.

If you are wondering what you can give your mom this Mother’s Day, I have a new video on YouTube that gives you a tutorial on making a very pretty and easy decoration out of tin cans and paper napkins. You can watch that video by clicking below.

And, last year on my blog, I showed how to make some really pretty glass plates, and you can read about them here.

To all the young moms reading this, you are doing a very important job raising human beings. I promise that even the hardest days you are experiencing right now will be just a fleeting moment in the big picture of this important job. A day will come when you miss the chaos, the noise, the piles of laundry… no, not the laundry. But you’ll miss the sports events, the Legos and/or Barbie stuff on the floor and the fighting in the back seat of your car, while telling your kids, “I WILL PULL THIS CAR OVER!!”. (Or did that just happen in my car?)

Thank you for stopping by my website and reading my words. Mother’s Day comes only once a year, but there’s no law that you can’t celebrate your mom on other days, too. I promise that she’d love that.

xoxo Teresa

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