Origins of Mothers Day

Origins of Mothers Day 1

We take a look at the origins of
Mothers Day

Mothers Day or Morthering Sunday, the very beginning of the story..

The Ancient Greeks worshipped the mother of gods Rhea by putting out displays of offerings flowers, sweet drinks, honey cake. Magna Mater was the Mother of all goods, In Rome, there is a temple in her honour. In March Festival of Hilaria.

The UK and the Church Calendar

The dates change from year to year as to when Mothers day falls in the UK. This is because it depends upon the other dates in the religous calender.

The 4th Sunday of Lent in the UK, Mothering Sunday was seen to be celebrated in the 1600s in the UK. But it was not initially about our literal mothers as you will find if you read on. Another theory as time progressed, was the idea that females working a long distance from home were allowed this day off to return to their families mothers to celebrate. A mothering cake became associated with this event.

The Laetare Sunday Festival in the Christian calendar a day when people visited their “Mother Church” normally from their childhood or family home.

Mothers Day an American Idea

Many think the Americans influenced us to keep the trend going in modern times. The Author of Battle Hymn to the Republic Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910 ) was an American suffragist, a pacifist and a writer. In 1870 her publication “Appeal to womanhood throughout the World”.  She made reference to a Mothers Day in 1872. She wanted a peaceful day on a mothers day because of the wars that had previously gone on, she believed mothers suffered a loss of life, due to husbands and sons being killed in battles. The day never really happened but she led the Women’s International Peace Association that did set out a peace day.  “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, published 1862, one of Churchill’s favourite hymns and was played at his funeral.

West Virginia Mountain Mama

Another American woman Anna Jarvis 1864-1948 PA wanted to remember her own mother. Mother Jarvis organised Mothers day work clubs, later Mothers Friendship clubs.  In the 1850s in West Virginia. Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum near Grafton WV. She herself had lost 8 children. She wanted to do something about the high mortality rate of children due to sanitation and health and lack of care services sanitation etc. The groups united during the war to save the lives of soldiers from both sides and set aside differences well after the war ended too. She gave a speech in 1868 urging to obliterate family estrangement, wearing a floral badge.  Getting closer to their mothers. When she was dying it was her wish to have a  Mothers day. Which her daughter pursued.

1904  Professor Frank E Hering at Indianapolis USA Gave a speech at the English Opera House there, “Other Mothers and their Importance in Our Lives” a plaque there commemorates this nationwide observance of Mothers Day. Hering one of the Founders of the “Fraternity Order of the Eagles”, which was a group of theatre owners who had a connection with the arts. Their aim was to promote, liberty, peace justice equality and Truth. The plaque makes reference to their significance in promoting Mothers Day aims.

In 1908 Grafton WV church was asked to celebrate mothers day and they campaigned by writing to other ministers in other states by 1911 most states joined in.

Mothers Day was made official as WW1 approaches.

1914 president Woodrow Wilson officially made Mothers day a national Holiday each year. 2nd Sunday in May. Paying tribute to mothers being a great source of strength and inspiration.   Anna formed the Mothers Day international Association and 50 or so other countries joined in. Wearing a coloured carnation if your mother is living white if she has passed away.

Over the yrs people bought cards presents, flowers commercialised, flowers increased in price around this time which horrified dismayed Anna. She protested and tried to stop a parade saying it was a day of sentiment, not profit. Jarvis had the notion for people to wear a white carnation on that day, and visit their mothers. As the roaring twenties progressed she became disillusioned with how commercialised Mothers Day became. Suddenly a whole array of cards, gifts, floristry and confectionary companies all cashing in on the annual event.  Jarvis wanted to distance herself from what mothers day had become and had become active in taking out lawsuits against firms using the “Mothers Day” phrase and wanted the national day to be removed. She died towards the end of the 1940s.

An English Woman’s input to the Mothers Day mission

In the 1920s  other progressions started for the Mothers Day message. An English woman was Inspired by a 1913 newspaper article about Jarvis, and her quest for more international recognition of a Mothers Day. That English woman was C Penswick Smith (Constance Smith) 1878-1938, wrote a leaflet entitled “Revival of Mothering Sunday”.  Daughter of an Anglican Clergyman and this is how it was related and bought back into religious significance. Smith set about researching the traditions around the church, and the mothering day of the 4th Sunday in Lent.

Other countries celebrate it in May and some in Dec on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

1968 a hundred years on from the Jarvis speech, another woman Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther Junior, organised a march on this Mothers Day to raise awareness about underprivileged women. Through time the connection between Mothers Day and women and men who had humanitarian interests has been a springboard to keep the message going. Most of us when young have the introduction to this day by making cards right back from a time when our ability to write many words is limited.


Mothers day advertised on a London Transport Bus
Mothers day advertised on a London Transport Bus
Mothering Sunday
Mothering Sunday
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