A Brief History of the American Mother's Day. (Image from the Postcard Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
Mother’s Day, a holiday honoring motherhood, is observed in different forms throughout the world. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending.
The American Mother’s Day was founded by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. However, the origins of Mother’s Day in the United States date back to the nineteenth century. In the years before the Civil War, Anna's mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia, helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. 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,” when mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. At times in the 20th century, Mother’s Day has also been a date for launching social causes. In 1968, Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s, women’s groups used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
The Suffolk County Historical Society
wishes all of our members, friends, and supporters
a very happy Mother's Day!