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The birth of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece.

One of the earliest historical records of a society celebrating a Mother deity can be found among the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis, who was commonly regarded as the Mother of the pharaohs.

Mother’s Day celebrations can also be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600s, the early Christians in England celebrated a day to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. By a religious order the holiday was later expanded in its scope to include all mothers, and named as the Mothering Sunday.

In the United States, Mother’s Day was first suggested after the American Civil War by social activist Julia Ward Howe. Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was horrified by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. She began a one-woman peace crusade and made an impassioned “appeal to womanhood” to rise against war.

Picasso’s Mother and Child

Howe’s idea was influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called “Mothers Friendship Day.” In the 1900s, at a time when most women devoted their time solely to their family and homes, Jarvis was working to assist in the healing of the nation after the Civil War.

It was Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother’s Day in the sense as we celebrate it today. Anna decided to dedicate her life to her mother’s cause and to establish Mother’s Day to “honor mothers, living and dead.”

As a result of her efforts the first mother’s day was observed on May 10, 1908, by a church service honoring Late Mrs. Reese Jarvis, in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she spent 20 years taking Sunday school classes. Grafton is the home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

From there, the custom caught on spreading eventually to 45 states and on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the first official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. He asked Americans to give a public expression of reverence to mothers through the celebration of Mother’s Day.

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