History and Story Behind Mother's Day Part 2

About the origins of Mother's Day in the United States, history and information about the holiday.

The Story behind Mother's Day

Date--2nd Sunday in May.

On May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis instigated simultaneous Mother's Day services in churches in Grafton, W. Va., and Philadelphia, Pa. These services were mainly held to honor her own mother. Miss Jarvis suggested the wearing of white carnations, her mother's favorite flower. Following these memorials, Miss Jarvis began a strenuous letter-writing campaign, bombarding congressmen, State governors, influential businessmen, clergymen, members of the press, with proposals that a day be set aside dedicated to mothers, both living and dead. Gradually, her hurricane of correspondence began to overcome resistance. In 1910, the governors of West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Washington proclaimed official Mother's Day holidays. Within a year, every other State in the nation had followed suit.

Encouraged, Miss Jarvis formed the Mother's Day International Association in December, 1912. In less than 2 years Miss Jarvis saw her idea become a reality. Both Houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions requesting the Chief Executive to proclaim such a holiday. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation directing "government officials to display the U.S. flag on all government buildings" and inviting "the people of the U.S. to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the 2nd Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

The holiday quickly caught on elsewhere, and was soon being observed in Canada, Mexico, and parts of South America, as well as in Japan.

Despite her triumph, Miss Jarvis's last 3 decades of life were unhappy. She busied herself nursing a blind sister, attending Sunday school conventions, and supervising the observance of her holiday. But gradually the holiday got away from her. She lived to see what she had meant to be a religious observance slowly become a strictly commercial holiday exploited by florists, greeting-card companies, and candy manufacturers. Presently, Miss Jarvis lost her sister, then her home, and then her sight. In 1944, ailing and penniless, she was placed in a West Chester, Pa., sanitarium, there supported by friends until her death in 1948.

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