The history of Mother’s Day - Glasshouse Christian College

The history of Mother’s Day

  • May 6, 2021

The history of Mother’s Day

history of Mother's Day
Anna Jarvis began the modern Mother’s Day holiday.

Most people think that Mother’s Day came into being in 1908 by American Anna Jarvis who wanted to commemorate her mother. However, the history of Mother’s Day goes back much further. 

In the second and third books of the Bible (written more than three thousand years ago) we are told to honour our father and mother in Exodus 20:12 and in Leviticus, it says; “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father.”

Motherhood was also celebrated in Ancient Greek and Roman times. Unfortunately, it was the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele that they held festivals for but these were the first known commemorations in honour of motherhood.

As the impact of the gospel was felt across the known world, it became a major tradition in the UK and some parts of Europe to hold a mother’s day of sorts on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was seen as a time when the faithful would return to their ‘mother church’ for a special service. 

history of Mother's Day
Ann Reeves Jarvis, Anna’s mum whose tireless work inspired Mother’s Day.

As time went on, the celebration became more secularised and turned into a day where children gave their mums flowers and small gifts to say thanks. 

Celebrating mothers on one day a year faded as a tradition until the years before the Civil War. Ann Reeves Jarvis helped begin “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach women how to care for their children. In 1868 Anna organised a “Mothers’ Friendship Day to promote friendship and reconciliation between the former Union and Confederate soldiers after the war.

Ann was not alone in her efforts. Famous abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870. This was a call to action for mothers to promote world peace and Julia campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated on 2 June each year. 

history of Mother's Day
John Wanamaker, Department Store owner who saw an opportunity.

We even had a father join the efforts when Frank Hering, along with Mary Sasseen, tried to organise Mothers’ Days in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The modern-day Mother’s Day began in 1908 when the daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis organised the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in West Virginia. Ann Jarvis gained financial backing for the event from John Wanamaker and on the same day, Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia also held a Mother’s Day event. This seemed to forecast a long future of intertwining commercialism with Mother’s Day. 

Back then Mother’s Day would be celebrated simply by wearing a white carnation and visiting your mum and going to church. 

However you spend Mother’s Day, let’s not neglect the essence of celebrating our mums and thanking them for the sacrifices they have made for us. 

I want to particularly thank all our GCC mums out there for helping their children gain the most from their education, supporting them in the big and little things of life. You truly are God’s gift to your children.

Mike Curtis, Principal

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