Today in History: Mother’s Day
Credit for starting Mother’s Day goes to a schoolteacher named Ana Jarvis. Here campaign to organize a holiday began as a way to honor the memory of her own mother, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis. The elder Jarvis had devoted much of her life to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church of Grafton, West Virginia, and in May 1908, at Anna Jarvis’s urging, the church held a service honoring mothers. Anna Jarvis, who lived in Philadelphia, also convinced merchant John Wanamaker to join her cause in establishing Mother’s Day, and he held an afternoon service in his store. Within just a couple of years, the custom had spread to other states.
At one of the first Mother’s Day services, Jarvis distributed white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower. Many people still follow the tradition of giving and wearing carnations on Mother’s Day—white flowers in memory of deceased mothers, and brightly colored ones for living mothers.
Jarvis and her supporters convinced ministers, politicians, and businessmen to support the goal of starting a national observance. On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a joint resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Mother’s Day presidential proclamation, calling for “a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
American History Parade
1541 - Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reaches the Mississippi River.
1846 - General Zachary Taylor wins the first major battle of the Mexican War at Palo Alto, Texas.
1884 - Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third U.S. president, is born in Lamar, Missouri.
1886 - Druggist John S. Pemberton sells the first Coca-Cola at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.
1914 - Congress establishes the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
1945 - Americans celebrate victory in Europe over Nazi Germany (VE Day).