Happy Mother’s Day! Today is the day we celebrate all the hard work, dedication and love that goes into mothering. We celebrate those who made it possible for us to be happy, content and secure. Most of all we celebrate that one special person who thinks we are perfect (or at least better than other mother’s kids).
Celebrating motherhood is a historical tradition dating back almost as far as mothers themselves. A number of ancient cultures paid tribute to mothers as goddesses, including the ancient Greeks, who celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods. The early Christian church celebrated a type of Mother’s Day in order to pay tribute to Mary and to incorporate pagan mothering celebrations.
During the 17th century, the British isles initiated a religious celebration of motherhood, called Mothering Sunday, which was held on the forth Sunday during the Lenten season. This holiday featured the reunification of mothers and their children, separated when working class families had to send off their young children to be employed as house servants. On Mothering Sunday, the child servants were allowed to return home for the day to visit with their parents.
In the United States, Mother’s Day was loosely inspired by the British day and was first suggested after the American Civil War by social activist Julia Ward Howe. Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) was horrified by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War and so, in 1870, she tried to issue a manifesto for peace at international peace conferences in London and Paris. In 1872, she went to London to promote an international Woman’s Peace Congress. She began promoting the idea of a “Mother’s Day for Peace” to be celebrated on June 2, honoring peace, motherhood and womanhood.
Howe’s idea was influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called “Mothers Friendship Day”. In the 1900’s, at a time when most women devoted their time solely on their family and homes, Jarvis was working to assist in the healing of the nation after the Civil War. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. Ann was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women in her Mothers Friendship Clubs the basics of nursing and sanitation which she had learned from her famous physician brother James Reeves, M.D. It was Jarvis’ daughter Ann, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother’s Day in the sense as we celebrate it today. She spent her life dedicated to her ailing mother and wanted to honor her after death.
All three of these women are a reminder of what we are capable of how hard we work for our families and friends. So Happy Mother’s Day/Peace/ Friendship Day to all mothers out there. I wish you all the best!
I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.
View all posts by sarij