Mother’s Day began...

Excerpted and compiled by LAURIE STUART
Posted 5/8/24


In 1858, when Ann Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker, organized “Mother’s Work Days” to improve the sanitation and avert deaths from disease-bearing insects and seepage …

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Mother’s Day began...



In 1858, when Ann Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker, organized “Mother’s Work Days” to improve the sanitation and avert deaths from disease-bearing insects and seepage of polluted water.


In 1872, when Boston poet, pacifist and women’s suffragist Julia Ward Howe established a special day for mothers —and for peace—not long after the bloody Franco-Prussian War.


In 1905, when Ann Jarvis died. Her daughter, Anna, decided to memorialize her mother’s lifelong activism, and began a campaign that culminated in 1914 when Congress passed a Mother’s Day resolution.


All of the above.

Here’s a little bit more about these three exemplar women.

Ann Jarvis

Known as “Mother Jarvis,” Ann Jarvis taught Sunday school and was a lifelong community activist. She organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia to combat unsanitary living conditions. She was concerned about the high infant mortality rate, especially pervasive in Appalachia, and wanted to educate and help mothers who needed it the most.

During the Civil War, Ann Jarvis organized women’s brigades, encouraging women to help without regard for which side their men had chosen. After the war, she proposed a Mothers’ Friendship Day to promote peace between former Union and Confederate families.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was a famous poet and reformer. During the Civil War, she volunteered for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, helping them to provide hygienic environments for hospitals and to ensure sanitary conditions during the care of sick and wounded soldiers. In 1861, she authored the famous Civil War anthem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was first published in February 1862.

Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for a “Mother’s Day for Peace” dedicated to the celebration of peace and the eradication of war. As expressed in what is called her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” from 1870, Howe felt that mothers should gather to prevent the cruelty of war and the waste of life since mothers alone bear and know the full cost.

Howe’s version of Mother’s Day was held in Boston and other locations for about 30 years, but died a quick death in the years preceding World War I.

Anna M. Jarvis

After Ann Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter Anna from Philadelphia wished to memorialize her mother’s life and started campaigning for a national day to honor all mothers. “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life,” Ann Jarvis once said. “She is entitled to it.”

Anna’s ideas were less about public service and more about simply honoring the role of motherhood and the sacrifices made in the home. In May of 1907, Anna memorialized her mother’s lifelong activism with a memorial service held at the Methodist Church in Grafton, WV, where Anna’s mother had taught, and a service at the Wannamaker Auditorium in Philadelphia, which could seat no more than a third of the 15,000 people who showed up.

The idea of honoring mothers caught on and it was proclaimed a national holiday in 1914. 

For more about Mother's Day, visit almanac.com/content/history-mothers-day
 and nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org

mothers day, origin, founder, women


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