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Mother’s Day: A Current-Day Celebration That Extends Way Back in Time

Posted by Saint Leo University Online on May 11, 2018 12:40:10 PM

This photo shows four generations of mothers, from young to old, in honor of Mother's Day.On Sunday, May 13, 2018, families all across America will take a moment – if not the entire day – to honor the women who have dedicated their days, months, and years to making sure their families have the best lives—and the best futures—possible.

It’s a day that celebrates the women who have selflessly looked after the people they love, taking care of their families when they’re sick and offering love and support when they’re facing difficult times. These are the women who have shed countless drops of sweat and tears in the hopes that their children, whether by birth or otherwise, don’t have to shed their own.

These women are the ones who hold the coveted title of “mother.” But how did this day dedicated to the top females in our lives begin? As it turns out, it started a long, long time ago.

A Holiday Deeply Rooted in History

According to History.com, the ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated mothers in general, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the notion of creating a formal Mother’s day was born.

Initially, a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis created Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in an effort “to teach local women how to properly care for their children.” Then, in 1868, she created Mothers’ Friendship Day, a day designed to promote mothers who were reconciling with their soldier sons.

Then, in 1905, Jarvis lost her own mother, leading her to create an actual Mother’s Day with similar sentiments with which we know it by today – A day dedicated to “honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.” However, formal recognition of this day wouldn’t appear until three years later, in 1908.

While this was a day meant to honor the women that not only create life, but that also make it more manageable and enjoyable, Jarvis eventually became disheartened by the over-commercialization of Mother’s Day and started to openly campaign against those who profited from it. She even filed lawsuits against a few who she felt gained financially from this particular holiday.

Sadly, Jarvis ultimately “disowned” Mother’s Day, asking the American government to remove it entirely from the U.S. calendar. In the end, she was unsuccessful in her bid, with the holiday still remaining some 70 years after her death in 1948.

Other “Mothers” of Mother’s Day

That being said, there are a few others who are also credited with creating and promoting a formal Mother’s Day recognition, shining a positive light on the many great things that a woman in this role does for the world, some of whom include:

  • Julia Ward Howe, best known for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic but who also wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, a declaration that called on women to “promote the alliance of different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, [and] the great and general interests of peace.”
  • Juliet Calhoun Blakeley, who earned the title of the “original Mother of Mother’s Day” after calling on mothers in Albion, Michigan to support the abolition of alcohol after “saloonists” forced three area boys to become intoxicated, ultimately bringing grief to the boys’ families. Blakeley’s sons were so proud of her that they designated the second Sunday in May (Blakeley’s birthday), as a day to celebrate mothers, encouraging others to do the same.
  • Mary Towles Sasseen is also credited with founding Mother’s Day in the Henderson County, Kentucky area, where she is said to have observed this day as a teacher in her classroom at Springfield public schools as far back as 1887. The Kentucky Legislature has since named Sasseen the “originator of the idea of Mother’s Day celebration.”
  • Frank Earle Hering, quarterback at Nortre Dame in 1896, is one of the only men who’ve made this list and is often referred to as “the father of Mother’s Day” after speaking to Indianapolis-based Fraternal Order of Eagles and urging them to set aside a day to celebrate their mothers.

Celebrating Mothers Today

Regardless of which account is right, there are a lot of women to celebrate as Statistic Brain reports that there are 85.4 million mothers in the United States alone. Since the population of the U.S. is around 325 million in total, this means that approximately one out of every four Americans are mothers.

And though $20.7 billion is spent on these leading ladies every Mother’s Day via flowers and other gifts, Statistic Brain further indicates that many prefer a gift that is homemade (36%), wants to be taken out to dinner (34.8%), or just wants a nice card (31.5%). Certainly, every mother is different, but, in true “mother” fashion, it appears that all that most of them want is to know that you love them as much as they love you.

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