The celebration of Mother’s Day began in the United States in the early 20th century; it is not related to the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred throughout the world over thousands of years, such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration.
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. She then began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States. Although she was successful in 1914 when Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s. Jarvis’ holiday was adopted by other countries and it is now celebrated all over the world. In this tradition, each person offers a gift, card, or remembrance toward their mothers, grandmothers, and/ or maternal figure on mother’s day.
Various observances honoring mothers existed in America during the 1870s and the 1880s, but these never had resonance beyond the local level. Including Julia Ward Howe’s attempts in the 1870s to establish a “Mother’s Day for Peace”, Jarvis always said the creation of Mother’s Day was hers alone and never made mention of any of the other attempts for a universal Mothers Day.
This is where the British tradition grows a little complicated. For the revival of Mothering Sunday must be attributed to Constance Smith (1878-1938), and she was inspired in 1913 by reading a newspaper report of Anna Jarvis’s campaign in America.
A big difference was that Constance Smith was a High Anglican who believed that “a day in praise of mothers” was fully expressed in the liturgy of the Church of England for the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Constance Smith reconnected simnel cakes and what local customs of the day that survived with the honouring of mothers. Under the pen-name C. Penswick Smith she published a booklet The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920. Things snowballed, impelled by feelings consequent on the loss by many mothers of their sons in the First World War.
Constance Smith’s idea was not that Mothering Sunday should be limited to one Christian denomination, and its popularity spread through such open organisations as the Boy Scouts and Girls Guides. “By 1938 it was claimed that Mothering Sunday was celebrated in every parish in Britain and in every country of the Empire ,” wrote Cordelia Moyse, the modern historian of the Mothers’ Union.
Neither Constance Smith nor Anna Jarvis ever became mothers themselves. Anna Jarvis regretted the growing commercialisation of the day, even to disapproving of pre-printed Mother’s Day cards. “A printed card means nothing,” she said, “except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
So what does Mother’s Day mean in your household? Is it a day to celebrate you as a Mother or do you share the limelight with parents and grand parents too? We’d love to hear your take on what Mother’s Day means to you we will be sure to share our Mojomum’s Mother’s Day experiences with you too!