Happy Mother's Day this weekend (at least in the United States). I've become a bit too fascinated with holidays and yearly observations recognized in Victorian-era America. Naturally, I had to look into Mother's Day.
In the U.S.A., Mother's Day (as we know it) wasn't officially declared until 1908, making is solidly Edwardian rather than Victorian.
"The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia." [History.com]
Because carnations were Anna Jarvis's mother's favorite, the white blossoms were declared the occasion-specific flower. But when white grew too scarce to meet the demand, florists convinced customers that pink or red carnations were for living mothers and white were to remember the deceased.
But origins of Mother's Day in America's history go further back than the Edwardian era (first decade of the 20th century). Interestingly enough, the mother Anna Jarvis celebrated, Anna Reeves Jarvis, helped start 'Mother's Day Work Clubs' designed to teach women how to properly care for their children. Their focus was to "improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College." [NationalGeorgraphic.com]
"These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868, Jarvis organized 'Mothers' Friendship day', at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation." [History.com]
In the last decades of the 19th century, localized celebrations and recognition of Mother's Day occurred in the U.S. and closely resembled today's observances: small handmade gifts, flowers for mother, church attendance, and quiet in-home recognition of love for mother.
In the United States, many different attempts were made to establish a Mother's Day--some were based upon a temperance platform, others to honor women who'd lost sons to war or who were at risk for losing their sons to war. [see Wikipedia]
President Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the first Mother's Day (May 9, 1914).
|[Image: Public Domain] President Woodrow Wilson signed an official Presidential Proclamation, May 9, 1914
What are your family's favorite Mother's Day traditions?
Hi! I'm Kristin Holt. I write Sweet Romance (Rated G and PG) set in the Victorian American West. I blog about all historical subjects surrounding my favorite times and places in America's past, including nearly a full calendar of articles about holiday observances in the American Victorian era. My recent post Victorian America Celebrates Arbor Day contains about one dozen links at the bottom to the other holidays, some of which have appeared here on Sweet Americana Sweethearts.