There are conflicting opinions, but most agree that the earliest Mother's Day celebrations occurred in ancient Greece to honor Rhea, the mother of the ancient Greek gods.
During the 17th century, England began to celebrate "Mothering Sunday." The name evolved from the custom of baking a special cake, called a mothering cake, to take on visits to mother. Today in England, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40-day period leading up to Easter).
In the United States, Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of Mother's Day in 1872. Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, saw Mother's Day as a day dedicated to peace after having lived through the horrors of the United States' Civil War.
Mrs. Blakeley's sons, Charles C. and Moses A. were travelling salesmen. They were so moved by her gesture that they vowed to return to Albion every year to mark their mother's birthday anniversary and to pay tribute to her.
In addition, the two brothers made it a practice to urge business associates and those they met on the road to honor their mothers accordingly on the second Sunday of May.
Because of the brothers urgings, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday of each May to pay special recognition to mothers, and especially to Juliet Calhoun Blakeley "The Original Mother of Mother's Day", early in the 1880s.
Juliet Calhoun Blakeley was born in New York in 1818, the daughter of James Calhoun. Her father's cousin was the statesman John C. Calhoun. Juliet's family came to Michigan and settled near Homer in 1832, but she remained in New York with her grandparents. In 1837, she married Alphonzo Blakeley. They then came to live in Michigan the same year it became a state. After living in Detroit through the winter, they settled in Homer in 1838.
Alphonzo Blakeley was a carpenter, and helped build Wesleyan Seminary, which later became Albion College. Eventually the couple moved to Albion and lived there for many more years. Alphonzo died in 1899 at the age of 92, Moses died in 1900. Mrs. Blakeley died in Albion on Nov. 29, 1920 at the age of 102 years.
In 1908 a movement to set aside a special day each year to honor mothers nationally was intensified, largely through the efforts of Miss Anna Jarvis. Miss Jarvis (1864-1948) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is credited by most with bringing about the official observance of Mother's Day in the United States. Miss Jarvis wanted a way to honor her beloved mother, Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis, who died in 1905.
The idea probably came from Mrs. Jarvis herself, who, in the late 19th century, had tried to establish "Mother's Friendship Days" as a way to help heal the scars of the Civil War.
Anna Jarvis came of age surrounded by Progressive reform efforts. She was raised in the small town of Grafton, West Virginia (now the site of an International Mother's Day Shrine). She taught school in Grafton, cared for her blind sister and her mother, participated in the temperance and suffrage movements, and was active in the local Methodist church.
Her Mother's Day observance, most likely the second American obverance, was a church service held on May 10, 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania arranged by Anna Jarvis. At that first service, Miss Jarvis furnished carnations, her mother's favorite flower. She chose white carnations to represent the sweetness, purity and endurance of motherly love. In time, red carnations came to signify that one's mother is living, while white carnations came to mean one's mother has died.
Miss Jarvis was so moved by the service honoring her mother that she began a nation-wide campaign to adopt a formal holiday honoring all mothers. In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother's Day. A year later, nearly every state officially marked the day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother's Day a national holiday to be held on the second Sunday of May.
Almost immediately, Mother's Day became an enormously commercial holiday. Disillusioned by the
commercialism, Miss Jarvis spent the rest of her life working diligently to reverse what she played
such a major role in creating.
"This is not what I intended," Jarvis once said. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit!" By the time she died in 1948 at age 84, Miss Jarvis, who was never married and had no children, had spent all of her money unsuccessfully trying to stop the commercialization of the holiday she worked so hard to found.
Today, more than 46 countries honor mothers with a special day, but not all nations celebrate on the same day. Some countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium are among those who also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May, the same day it is celebrated in the United States.
Today, most of us celebrate Mother's Day with little awareness of how it began. But we can identify with the respect, love and honor that Anna Jarvis displayed nearly a century ago. Women, especially mothers, face face new challenges in society today, but motherhood remains a lasting influence on us as individuals and as a nation.
The International Mother's Day is always May 11. In the U.S., there is even an official Mother's-In-Law-Day -- the fourth Sunday in October.
My Mother's Day celebration is dedicated to the memory of Mary N. Jarvis, my mom, who is sorely missed.
Copyright © - Larry James.
The Images of Mother
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