The History of Mother’s Day

by Patricia Chadwick 

All across the world, more than 46 countries honor mothers with a special day, but not all nations celebrate on the same day. We honor mothers with cards, candy, flowers and dinner out. But have you ever considered how this became a legal holiday in the United States?

Mother’s day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward Howe, writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She suggested that this day be dedicated to peace. Miss Howe organized Mother’s Day meetings in Boston every year.
In 1877, Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely inadvertently set Mother’s Day in motion. On Sunday, May 11, 1877, which was Mrs. Blakely’s birthday, the pastor of her
Methodist Episcopal Church left the pulpit abruptly,  distraught over the behavior of his son. Mrs. Blakely stepped to the pulpit to take over the remainder of the service and called for other mothers to join her. 

Mrs. Blakely’s two sons were so touched by her gesture that they vowed to return to their hometown of Albion, Mich., every year to mark their mother’s birthday and to pay tribute to her. In addition, the two brothers urged business associates and those they met while traveling as salesman to honor their mothers on the second Sunday of May. They also urged the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion to set aside the second Sunday of each May to honor all mothers,  especially their own.

While there were local celebrations honoring mothers in the late 1800’s, the recognition of Mother's Day as a U.S. national holiday was largely due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis. Anna’s mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis, had been instrumental in developing “Mothers Friendship Day” which was part of the healing process of the Civil War. In honor of her mother, Miss Jarvis wanted to set aside a day to honor all mothers, living and dead.

In 1907, Miss Anna began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. She persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, W.Va., to celebrate Mother’s day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second  Sunday of May. By the next year, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in her own city of Philadelphia.
Miss Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, evangelists, businessmen, and politicians in their crusade to establish a national Mother’s Day. 
This campaign was a success. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. 

The one-woman crusade of Anna Jarvis is often overlooked in history books because women during the early 1900s were engaged in so many other reform efforts, but it is likely that these other reforms helped pave the way for Anna Jarvis to succeed in her campaign for Mother’s Day.

About the Author:
Patricia Chadwick is a a freelance writer and has been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. She is currently a columnist in several online publications as well as editor of two email newsletters. Parents & Teens is a twice monthly newsletter geared to help parents connect with their teens. Subscribe at