Mothers are accustomed to being the caretaker, and often discover it’s not easy to sit back and allow others to take care of you. When Mother’s Day rolls around, it’s Mom’s Day, and I personally think it’s okay to let it be all about me. Yet Mother’s Day hasn’t always been this way. Perhaps this is a good time to review the history of Mother’s Day?
According to MothersDayCentral.com, this mom-only holiday originated in the 1600’s by clerical decree in England, originally called Mothering Day. The original concept was to allow servants and trade workers to return to their hometowns to visit their families and earn a “one-day reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent,” so that families across England could enjoy a sumptuous family feast—Mother was the guest of honor. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers, as well as a visit from their beloved and distant children.
When the first English settlers made their pilgramage to America, Mothering Day was lost in the Americas, for many reasons ranging from lack of time to harsh conditions to Puritan ideals. Although British celebration of Mothering Day lived on, it wasn’t until 1870 that the concept of a North American Mother’s Day returned, thanks to a poet and activist named Julia Ward Howe.
Julia Ward Howe is best known for penning the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but she was also the first to propose the holiday “Mother’s Day.” Based on her heart-wrenching experiences living as a wife and mother of six during an oppressive marriage and the devastating Civil War, she penned a poem, “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” to encourage women to be more socially responsible by protesting the futility of “Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers” and come together for peace. She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood in 1870.
Julie Ward Howe’s efforts were one of many women from the 1800’s. However, the first Mother’s Day wasn’t celebrated until 1907 in West Virginia, inspired by another mom, Appalachian home maker Anna Jarvis, ultimately spreading to 45 states. The states declared Mother’s Day official in 1912, and then on May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day.
This Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for my own mother who encouraged me to be whoever I wanted to be — thanks, Mom! I’m also proud to be a mother to two daughters and two stepdaughters, and grandmother to my two grandchildren. A special Happy Birthday to my daughter Rachel, who was my Mother’s Day gift 27 years ago.
For all the mothers out there, here is Julie Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, excerpted below:
Mother’s Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.