In the United States, Mother’s Day is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well the positive contributions that they make to society.
Although many Mother’s Day celebrations world-wide have quite different origins and traditions, most have now been influenced by the American traditions, including churchgoing, the distribution of carnations, and family dinners.
The first attempts to establish a “Mother’s Day” in the U.S. were mostly marked by women’s peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. There were several limited observances in the 1870s and the 1880s but none achieved resonance beyond the local level.
In 1868 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” whose purpose was “to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War”, and she wanted to expand it into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Her daughter Anna Jarvis would continue her mother’s efforts.
In New York City, Julia Ward Howe led a “Mother’s Day” anti-war observance on June 2, 1872, which was accompanied by a Mother’s Day Proclamation. The observance continued in Boston for about 10 years under Howe’s personal sponsorship, then died out.
Several years later a Mother’s Day observance on May 13, 1877 was held in Albion, Michigan over a dispute related to the temperance movement.According to local legend, Albion pioneer Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped up to complete the sermon of the Rev. Myron Daughterty who was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly drunk. From the pulpit Blakeley called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley’s two sons, both traveling salesmen, were so moved that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and embarked on a campaign to urge their business contacts to do likewise. At their urging, in the early 1880s, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of mothers.