A Day For Mothers

May 9, 2019

Today’s expressions of love for our mothers takes many forms; cards, flowers, a nice brunch or dinner or a simple phone call to say “I love you, mom.” But did you ever stop to think about the origins of Mothers Day?

Civil War activist and Boston poet, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was the first person to suggest a day honoring mothers for peace. She believed that mothers suffered more than anyone else from the tragic loss of human life due to war. And she also had a very personal reason for wanting recognition for mothers since her own had died when she was merely five.

Her passionate anti war sentiments led her to draft a Mother’s Day Peace Proclamation with the intent to honor peace, womanhood and motherhood. Unfortunately she failed to get an established annual observance of a Mother’s Day for Peace. But the fact remains that she paved the way for the modern day observance that we celebrate today. In recognition of her effort the post office issued a stamp honoring her in 1988.

Those who followed her and took up the idea of a national observance of Mothers Day included Anna Jarvis, recognized today as the true founder of Mother’s Day. A school teacher, born in West Virginia in 1864, she was not ashamed to proclaim at church services: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day. There are many days for men but not for mothers.”

Her daughter also named Anna, took up her cause as well and in 1905, began to lobby important businessmen and even Presidents Taft and Roosevelt to support the idea of creating a special day for honoring mothers. In 1908, she began the custom of handing out her mother’s favorite flower, a white carnation to honor all the women of her church. Her persistence paid off and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed into law, a bill establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

“Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

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