Constance Adelaide Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Constance Penswick-Smith)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Constance Adelaide Smith (28 April 1878 – 10 June 1938), also known as C. Penswick Smith in her published works, was an English woman who was responsible for the reinvigoration of the Christian holiday of Mothering Sunday in the UK in the early 20th century.


Smith was born in Dagnall, Buckinghamshire. She was one of seven children of the Anglican clergyman, Charles Penswick Smith, who was vicar of Dagnall at the time of her birth and was vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire from 1890 to his death in 1922. She was a High Church Anglican, and all four of her brothers became Anglican priests.

The details of her early life are not clear, but she worked as a governess in Germany in the late 19th century. By 1901 was a dispenser of medicines at the Hospital for Skin Diseases in Nottingham. She was a dispenser at the Girls' Friendly Society lodge in Regent Street, Nottingham from 1909.

Smith was inspired by a newspaper article in 1913, on the plans of Anna Jarvis, an American woman from Philadelphia, who hoped to introduce mother's day in the UK. In 1914, US President Woodrow Wilson made a proclamation establishing the second Sunday of May as the official date for the observance of a national day to celebrate mothers. Smith linked this concept to the Mothering Sunday, traditionally observed in the Anglican liturgical calendar on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and she published a booklet, The Revival of Mothering Sunday, in 1920. Mothering Sunday was a day for recognising mother church - symbolic of the body of Christ - and the mother church of a person's baptism, and when children traditionally travelled home to visit their parents so they could visit their mother church together.

With Ellen Porter, a colleague from the Girls' Friendly Society lodge, Smith established a movement to promote Mothering Sunday, collecting and publishing information about the day and its traditional observance throughout the UK. This included research into local traditions, such as the making of simnel and wafer cakes. The movement established Mothering Sunday as a widely observed day throughout the British Empire; by the time of her death, the day was said to be observed in every parish in Britain, and every country in the British Empire.[1]

Smith never married and had no children. She died in Nottingham in 1938 from acute tonsillitis and streptococcal cellulitis of the neck. She was buried in Coddington, beside her father. The lady chapel at All Saints', Coddington was dedicated to her memory in 1951.


  • Cordelia Moyse, ‘Smith, Constance Adelaide (1878–1938)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2012 accessed 6 March 2013
  • Michael Bache, Mothering Sunday. Constance Penswick Smith - (1878-1938), Coddington (Notts) History Group, archived from the original on 3 April 2012
  • All Saints Church, Coddington History Group