Mother's Day (United States)

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Mother's Day
Mother's day gifts.jpg
Examples of handmade Mother's Day gifts
Observed by US
Type Cultural, commercial
Observances Church services, distribution of carnations, breakfasts in bed and family dinners[1]
Date Second Sunday in May
2015 date May 10  (2015-05-10)
2016 date May 8  (2016-05-08)
2017 date May 14  (2017-05-14)
2018 date May 13  (2018-05-13)
Frequency annual
Related to Father's Day, Parents' Day

Mother's Day in the United States is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well as the positive contributions that they make to society. Although many Mother's Day celebrations world-wide have quite different origins and traditions, most have now been influenced by the more recent American tradition established by Anna Jarvis, who campaigned for the holiday. Organized by Jarvis, the first official Mother's Day was celebrated at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, which now holds the International Mother's Day Shrine.[2] Previous attempts at establishing Mother's Day in the United States sought to promote peace by means of honoring mothers who had lost or were at risk of losing their sons to war.


First attempts to establish a holiday[edit]

During the 19th century, women's peace groups in the US tried to establish holidays and regular activities in favor of peace and against war. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War.[citation needed]

In 1868, Ann Jarvis, mother of Anna Jarvis, created a committee to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day", the purpose of which was "to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War." Jarvis – who had previously organized "Mother's Day Work Clubs" to improve sanitation and health for both Union and Confederate encampments undergoing a typhoid outbreak – wanted to expand this into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular.[3][4] Her daughter, who became almost obsessed with her, would continue her mother's efforts.

There were several limited observances in the 1870s and the 1880s but none achieved resonance beyond the local level.[3] At the time, Protestant schools in the United States already held many celebrations and observations such as Children's Day, Temperance Sunday, Roll Call Day, Decision Day, Missionary Day and others.[5] In New York City, Julia Ward Howe led a "Mother's Day for Peace" anti-war observance on June 2, 1872,[3][6][7] which was accompanied by a "Appeal to womanhood throughout the world" (nowadays known as Mother's Day Proclamation). The observance continued in Boston for about 10 years under Howe's personal sponsorship, then died out.[8] In these celebrations, mothers all around the world would work towards world peace.[6]

Several years later a Mother's Day observance on May 13, 1877 was held in Albion, Michigan over a dispute related to the temperance movement.[9] According to local legend, Albion pioneer Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped up to complete the sermon of the Rev. Myron Daughterty who was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates at gunpoint to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly drunk. From the pulpit Blakeley called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley's two sons, both traveling salesmen, were so moved that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and embarked on a campaign to urge their business contacts to do likewise. At their urging, in the early 1880s, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of mothers.[citation needed]

Frank E. Hering, alumnus and administrator at the University of Notre Dame and President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, made a plea for "setting aside one day in the year as a nationwide memorial to the memories of Mothers and motherhood" in 1904.[10][11][12] After observing a class of Notre Dame students sending home penny postcards to their mothers, Hering went on to be a vocal advocate for a national Mother's Day for the next decade.[10] As Hering stated in a 1941 issue of Scholastic: “Throughout history the great men of the world have given their credit for their achievements to their mothers. [The] Holy Church recognizes this, as does Notre Dame especially, and Our Lady who watches over our great institution.”[10]

Establishment of holiday[edit]

Mother's Day 1915 postcard from Northern Pacific Railway

In its present form, Mother's Day was established by Anna Jarvis with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker following the death of her mother, Ann Jarvis, on May 9, 1905. Jarvis never mentioned Howe or Mothering Sunday, and she never mentioned any connection to the Protestant school celebrations, always claiming that the creation of Mother's Day was hers alone.[13]

A small service was held on May 12, 1907 in the Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna's mother had been teaching Sunday school.[3] The first "official" service was on May 10, 1908, in the same church, accompanied by a larger ceremony in the Wanamaker Auditorium in the Wanamaker's store in Philadelphia.[3] The next year the day was reported to be widely celebrated in New York.[14]

President Wilson's Mother's Day Proclamation of May 9, 1914

Jarvis then campaigned to establish Mother's Day first as a U.S. national holiday and then later as an international holiday.[15] The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of the states followed quickly.[3]

On May 10, 1913, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on all federal government officials (from the president down) to wear a white carnation the following day in observance of Mother's Day.[16] On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day and requesting a proclamation. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother's Day[17][18] as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.[17] In 1934, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a stamp commemorating the holiday.[19]

In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives voted twice on a resolution commemorating Mother's Day,[20][21] the first one being passed without a dissenting vote (21 members not voting).[20] The Grafton church, where the first celebration was held, is now the International Mother's Day Shrine and is a National Historic Landmark.[22]


Traditions on Mother's Day include churchgoing, the distribution of carnations, and family dinners.[1] Mother’s Day is the third largest holiday in the US for sending cards. According to the greeting card industry, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of American households send greeting cards on this holiday.[23] The holiday has been heavily commercialized by advertisers and retailers, and has been criticized by some as a Hallmark Holiday.[24][25]


Carnations have come to represent Mother's Day since Anna Jarvis delivered 500 of them at the first celebration in 1908.[3][18][22] Many religious services held later adopted the custom of giving away carnations.[3] This also started the custom of wearing a carnation on Mother's Day.[11] The founder, Anna Jarvis, chose the carnation because it was the favorite flower of her mother.[26] In part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers in Mother's Day, florists invented the idea of wearing a pink carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she was dead; this was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at churches.[11][27]


The commercialization of the American holiday began very early, and only nine years after the first official Mother's Day it had become so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become,[28][29] spending all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.[28] She decried the practice of purchasing greeting cards, which she saw as a sign of being too lazy to write a personal letter. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother's Day, and she finally said that she "...wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control ..."[29] She died later that year.

Mother's Day is now one of the most commercially successful American occasions, having become the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States[30] and generating a significant portion of the U.S. jewelry industry's annual revenue, from custom gifts like mother's rings.[31] Americans spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts—like spa treatments—and another $68 million on greeting cards.[32]

Commercialization has ensured that the holiday has continued, when other holidays from the same time, such as Children's Day and Temperance Sunday,[33] are no longer celebrated.[34]


Year Mother's Day
1908 1936 1964 1992 2020 2048 2076 May 10
1909 1937 1965 1993 2021 2049 2077 May 9
1910 1938 1966 1994 2022 2050 2078 May 8
1911 1939 1967 1995 2023 2051 2079 May 14
1912 1940 1968 1996 2024 2052 2080 May 12
1913 1941 1969 1997 2025 2053 2081 May 11
1914 1942 1970 1998 2026 2054 2082 May 10
1915 1943 1971 1999 2027 2055 2083 May 9
1916 1944 1972 2000 2028 2056 2084 May 14
1917 1945 1973 2001 2029 2057 2085 May 13
1918 1946 1974 2002 2030 2058 2086 May 12
1919 1947 1975 2003 2031 2059 2087 May 11
1920 1948 1976 2004 2032 2060 2088 May 9
1921 1949 1977 2005 2033 2061 2089 May 8
1922 1950 1978 2006 2034 2062 2090 May 14
1923 1951 1979 2007 2035 2063 2091 May 13
1924 1952 1980 2008 2036 2064 2092 May 11
1925 1953 1981 2009 2037 2065 2093 May 10
1926 1954 1982 2010 2038 2066 2094 May 9
1927 1955 1983 2011 2039 2067 2095 May 8
1928 1956 1984 2012 2040 2068 2096 May 13
1929 1957 1985 2013 2041 2069 2097 May 12
1930 1958 1986 2014 2042 2070 2098 May 11
1931 1959 1987 2015 2043 2071 2099 May 10
1932 1960 1988 2016 2044 2072 2101 May 8
1933 1961 1989 2017 2045 2073 2102 May 14
1934 1962 1990 2018 2046 2074 2103 May 13
1935 1963 1991 2019 2047 2075 May 12
2100 May 9
2104 May 14

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b J. Ellsworth Kalas (19 October 2009). Preaching the Calendar: Celebrating Holidays and Holy Days. Westminster John Knox Press. Church attendance on this day is likely to be third only to Christmas Eve and Easter. Some worshipers still celebrate with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is deceased. 
  2. ^ O'Reilly, Andrea (6 April 2010). Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Sage Publications (CA). p. 602. ISBN 978-1-4522-6629-9. She organized the first official Mother's Day service at Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, on the morning of May 10, 1908. That same afternoon, 15,000 people attended a Mother's Day service at the Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia, which she also organized. Jarvis chose the second Sunday in May for Mother's Day to mark the anniversary of her mother's death and selected her mother's favorite flower, the white carnation, as the day's official emblem. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Virginia Bernhard (2002). "Mother's Day". In Joseph M. Hawes, Elizabeth F. Shores. The family in America: an encyclopedia (3, illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 714. ISBN 978-1-57607-232-5. 
  4. ^ Larossa, 1997, pag 172
  5. ^ Leigh, p.252
  6. ^ a b Leigh, p. 252
  7. ^ The First Anniversary of 'Mother's Day'", The New York Times, June 3, 1874, p. 8: "'Mother's Day,' which was inaugurated in this city on the 2nd of June, 1872, by Mrs. Julia Ward Howards[sic], was celebrated last night at Plimpton Hall by a mother's peace meeting..."
  8. ^ Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day for Peace,
  9. ^ Mother's Day from "Albion's Historical Markers", maintained by an Albion, Michigan business
  10. ^ a b c "The Father of Mother's Day | Notre Dame Archives News & Notes". Retrieved 2016-04-27. 
  11. ^ a b c "Annie's "Mother's Day" History Page". Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  12. ^ "Fraternal Order of Eagles: The History of Mother's Day". Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  13. ^ Leigh, p.253
  14. ^ "They organize no crusade in the interests of so-called 'women's rights'...", NY Times, May 10, 1909
  15. ^ "The promoters of White Carnation Day have expressed their intention to make the observance international in character...", Poverty Bay Herald, 1 June 1909
  16. ^ Express (Washington, D.C.), May 10, 2013, p. 30.
  17. ^ a b Rice, Susan Tracey and Robert Haven Schauffler (1915). Mother's day: its history, origin, celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse. pp. 3–5. in 1914 Congress passed a law, which Wilson signed on May 8, 1914, 'designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day', and authorizing and requesting that Wilson issue a proclamation 'calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.' 
  18. ^ a b Today in History: May 9 Library of Congress
  19. ^ William H. Young, Nancy K. Young (2007), The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia (illustrated ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 520, ISBN 0-313-33520-6 
  20. ^ a b House Vote #274 (May 7, 2008) H. Res. 1113: Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day (Vote On Passage)
  21. ^ House Vote #275 (May 7, 2008) Table Motion to Reconsider: H RES 1113 Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother’s Day
  22. ^ a b Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, National Historic Landmarks program, National Park Service 
  23. ^ "14 Mind-Blowing Facts from Mother's Day History". Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  24. ^ Brian Handwerk (11 May 2012). "Mother's Day's Dark History". National Geographic News. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Marc Powers (11 May 1996). "Mother's Day only a Hallmark holiday". Southeast Missourian. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  26. ^ Leigh, 1997, pag. 260
  27. ^ Leigh, 1997, pag. 274
  28. ^ a b Louisa Taylor, Canwest News Service (2008-05-11). "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  29. ^ a b "Mother's Day reaches 100th anniversary, The woman who lobbied for this day would berate you for buying a card". MSNBC. Associated Press. 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  30. ^ Press releases:
  31. ^ Barnett Helzberg (2003). John Wiley and Sons, ed. What I Learned Before I Sold to Warren Buffett. p. 80. ISBN 0-471-44539-8. 
  32. ^ Recession or not: Mom comes 1st ( | Local Business
  33. ^ The New York Times, November 17, 1888, Temperance Sunday's programme
  34. ^ Leigh, page 256 "... it might even have gradually withered away like other Protestant days of the early twentieth century such as Children's Day or Temperance Sunday."

External links[edit]