The History of Mother’s Day: A Day For Sentiment…And Smiles

As happens every year, April showers have made way for May flowers…or at least that is what I experienced this past weekend while in New York City where tulips, daffodils, lilacs and irises were everywhere.

Springtime in NYC

Signs of spring in NYC with tulips lining Park Avenue (left) and daffodils making their appearance at the Saturday Union Square Farmer’s Market (right)


And the trees…OMG…blooming in all their glory!

In front of The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park at 59th Street (left) and outside the brand new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District

In front of The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park at 59th Street (left) and outside the brand new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District

In Florida, however, not so many signs of spring.

So call me crazy but…I always assumed that the proliferation of flowers elsewhere may, in fact, have been the reason why America’s version of Mother’s Day was chosen for this particular month.  With the day we honor all maternal figures rapidly approaching this Sunday, I took it upon myself to check the origins via my good friend Google and suddenly found myself reading a very different history than I had imagined.

It appears our modern day version started as a result of Ann Reeves Jarvis. A social activist from a young age, she was the founder of the Mothers Day Work Clubs around the time of the Civil War. The goal of these local clubs was to help promote better health and sanitation, but also to demonstrate the value of mothers to our society beyond the traditional domestic stereotypes. Eventually, Ann began to dream of a way for our country to better honor all mothers as their role was rapidly changing.

Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905)

Ann passed away in 1905 and her daughter, Anna Jarvis, an extremely community driven woman in her own right, decided to fulfill her mother’s dream. With the help of many friends and activists she started a letter writing campaign  to establish a holiday to recognize the importance of motherhood. The first official Mothers’ Day ceremony took place in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia on May 9, 1908, three years to the day after Ann’s death. At the service, Anna presented all of the mothers with a white carnation, her mother’s favorite flower, still to this day considered the symbolic flower of the holiday.

It took a few more years and a lot of letters until, one by one, every state began celebrating some form of a Mother’s Day. And on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed Proclamation 1268, creating a national holiday on the second Sunday in May.

“The history of the day has its roots in honoring the broader networks, social ties, and political concerns of women. The day is about women’s commitment to the past, present, and future at both the personal and political levels. It honors women who have acted not only on behalf of their own children but also on behalf of an entire future generation.” (Source:

By the 1920s, however, Anna had watched how commercialized it became and actually spent the rest of her life denouncing the holiday.

A Day Of Sentiment

Despite her profound disgust for what she started, she was labeled the Mother of Mother’s Day and until she died in 1948 her room at the nursing home where she lived was always filled on Mother’s Day with cards and flowers from around the country.

Anna Jarvis (Source: Wikipedia)

FYI…don’t ever underestimate the importance of punctuation. The original holiday was Mothers’ Day with the apostrophe being after the “s”. Why? So the emphasis would be on all women’s social and political activities.  Officials, of course, messed it up by changing the placement between the “r” and “s” and thereby forever making it a holiday about one’s own particular mother.

For me,  Mother’s Day has been rather bittersweet in recent years. Many of you know that my own mother passed away on May 10, 2005, two days after we attempted to celebrate the holiday in her hospital room in Little Rock where she had recently received her second stem cell transplant to help curb her incurable Multiple Myeloma. She actually had been cleared to go home the week before but took an unexpected turn for the worse.

Sadly, Mother’s Day began to leave me with a very heavy heart. I don’t know if I would feel the same way had she died at any other time of the year, but like Anna Jarvis 100+ years ago, I needed to do something to make sure my mother would always be remembered.

A simple email (my version, I suppose, of a letter writing campaign) on May 10, 2006 to family and friends asking them to take a moment during the day to have a cookie and smile (she was an incredible baker and made amazing chocolate chip cookies) led to an annual “event” of sorts selling her cookies to raise money for various cancer charities. If you don’t know the story, feel free to read a blog I wrote three years ago, in her memory as well as in honor of my first Mother’s Day after starting my baked goods company, tcP! Sweets.

While I no longer have that business, I still have daily reminders of my mother and the incredible role model she was for me beyond the four walls of our home growing up and through my adult years before her death.  After all, she came from incredible stock…my grandmother and great-grandmother were also very strong and fiercely independent women.

My mother (center) at her Sweet Sixteen with my grandmother (left) and great-grandmother (right). I may be a little biased but she was so beautiful.

My great-grandmother, Helen, actually ran away from her home in Czechoslovakia when she was 12 and took a ship to the U.S. by herself. Her family managed to get her back to their village until she was 14, only for her to run away again.

Did I mention she was fierce??  

It seems her parents figured out she was determined and decided to let her settle in Detroit where she ultimately met my great-grandfather and the rest, as they say, is history. Clearly, had she never left Eastern Europe, the chances of her surviving the Holocaust years later would have been slim…talk about rewriting history, right?

I wish I could rewrite what happened to my mother. Instead, I will continue to keep her memory alive the best way I know how especially by having a cookie on Mother’s Day, possibly for breakfast, since that’s what happened last year when my son and I went to visit my daughter at college and neither one of them, of course, made it out of bed before noon.


Mother’s Day morning 2014…Yep, that would be my son sleeping in the background.

This year, I’ll be in Tampa. No idea what the plan is yet (giant hint there for my husband and son to figure something out), but regardless of whether I have the cookie for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between, I guarantee it will be with a big smile on my face.

You know what else would bring a smile to my face? If you would consider voting for my dog, Gavin. He (whether he realizes it or not) is competing for the Dogs With Purpose Calendar Contest.  Since I am not doing any baking this year to raise money for any cancer charities that I’ve helped in the past, I figured I would put Gavin’s sweet face to work for me…1507781_10152567157693226_3598771262779493801_n

Come on, a vote is only a buck…cheaper than a cookie or cup of coffee!!!! And you will be helping Women With Purpose, an amazing non-profit helping cancer patients with their non-medical financial needs.

That’s it for now…wishing all the moms out there a wonderful day filled with love and life on Sunday…#BlackerOut !



Filed under Call Me Crazy, Holidays, Motherhood

56 responses to “The History of Mother’s Day: A Day For Sentiment…And Smiles

  1. Before I wrote my blog for Mother’s Day I did a bit of research. This is by far the BEST piece about the special day for motherhood. I had intended to get to the history of the holiday but got lost in reading many personal blogs. The day is bittersweet for many as I so learned; the women who tried but hadn’t succeeded in becoming mothers, miscarriages, children who died or were abducted, adoptive moms, so many variations to address and we weren’t sure how to be politically correct. I myself had a birth and a foster mom, still unable to include. So, we addressed it to Precious Moms and the many faces of Motherhood.
    Your dog looks so sweet, such a nice face and my step son is a vet, so I know your dog is as sweet as he looks. Will cast my vote for a worthwhile cause.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Roz…I really spent some time thinking this one through. I didn’t want to just repeat the same story about my mother but the history of the day really did resonate with me. And my dog? He is the best! Seriously, I know he gets into trouble more than most but that face makes it all worthwhile. I appreciate the vote and so does he 🙂


  2. Interesting history of Mother’s Day, I had no idea. Last year my kids and I made cream puff swans together and had a lot of fun laughing together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy cow Beth, this is an awesome post & tribute to your mother! Big question – when are you sharing her cookie recipe so we can all enjoy her legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting article, we learn something new all the time. While holidays like Mother’s Day are to honor the mother and appreciate all she does these days stores etc take advantage and use these holidays (like Valentine’s Day as well) to make more money and increase sales on certain items that these recipients would love. Smart marketing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had no idea how Mothers’ Day began!! How cool to learn of its origins 🙂
    I hope you enjoy your time in Tampa and that you smile big when you have that cookie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tampa is home these days Natalie…I wish I could be in two places at once (where my daughter goes to school and here) but until they invent hyperspace machines I guess I have to stay put at home.


  6. Sonya

    Happy Mother’s Day in the USA. In the UK we had ours in March.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Erika Kalmar

    Great article! I didn’t know about the history. I’m from Hungary and there we celebrate Mother’s day on the first Sunday of May, so I’m in the lucky situation to be “celebrated” for two weeks by my son, both according to the Hungarian and the local way…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, I never knew the real story behind Mother’s Day. Today, it is just about taking mom out to lunch (and waiting an incredibly long time to eat). Since I moved out of state after college graduation, I haven’t spent mother’s day with her in a very long time (and she passed away in 2012). So, I’m left feeling left out on Mother’s Day (I don’t have any kids who could honor me). I like your call to return to purpose!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol, I think as women we need to continue to remind men that we have a purpose beyond giving birth. They don’t carry that burden so they definitely take it for granted. As far as not having someone to share the day with, I highly recommend making a batch of cookies and I guarantee you’ll have many people knocking at your door 🙂


  9. wonderful article, it really warmed my heart! My mother passed away just 3 months ago, so it’s going to be hard one this year. On another note, I love the original intent of Mothers’ Day so in my heart that is what I will be celebrating. As for how I celebrate, I usually like a quite day hanging out with my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I did not know this much history into Mothers Day. Very interesting. I think I’m going to share some of this with my kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. hollyjeantampa

    I feel slightly ashamed that I didn’t know this story of how Mother’s Day came to be. WOW! Girl power… We are doing a Mother’s Day tea party tomorrow with all of the little ones in my family and their mamas.

    Also, you and your mother share a striking resemblance…. and that story of your great grandmother! LOVE IT! Go get em. And Happy Mother’s Day! I’m officially hungry for cookies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No reason to feel ashamed Holly…we grew up thinking it was a Hallmark holiday. Why I didn’t learn about it in a Women’s Studies class in college, though, is a different story! Enjoy your tea party…what a great tradition. And, yes, I do look very much like my mother although she had amazing hazel eyes and mine are just plain ordinary brown. Happy Mothers’ or Mother’s Day!!!


  12. Terrific piece. Her reaction to profit vs sentiment could be said of almost any holiday that marketers beat for business. Thanks for reminding abuout heart and soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a lovely post. I didn’t know that history and it’s nice to hear about the women in your family. Yes, the day can be bittersweet for those of us who have lost our moms and other losses. I’m lucky in that I’m traveling in CA to see my son and his wife this mothers’ day weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Enjoy your visit Beth…I wish I could be with both of my kids but at least I still have one at home. That is only lasting another month and then he’ll be off to college!


  14. Your mom’s Sweet 16 photo is indeed adorable, and your great-grandmother would have liked to hang out with mine. She sent her son to tell dad at work one day, “Don’t come home to the old house, come home to the new house. Mom moved us today.” !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love this and I will enjoy a cookie on Mother’s day just for you and your mom 🙂 And Gavin is adorable! I love beagle’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Fascinating stuff, and a beautiful doggy face too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh interesting to know the history behind our national holidays, thanks for sharing!!! And Happy Mother’s Day to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Allen J.Kovinsky

    You got it right on Mom,”Beautiful and Multi Talented”.Love Dad

    Liked by 1 person

  19. great post, glad to know about mothers’ day, and i am voting for your dog. Now, all you men who forgot it was Mothers’ day, we have great mothers day gifts in our store to keep you out of the doghouse. Jewelry is the answer to all gifts and we have gold plated roses that never die. Come see us.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks for an interesting blog post as always…I actually I did not know the story behind Mother’s Day either…so it was really interesting to get this background story here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Wow Beth, I had no idea… oh and btw.. beautiful flowers in NYC… loved the background and your son in the background.. sleeping. Hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I do love to read of history, thank you! Thanks so much for taking the time to link up with us over at the #HomeMattersParty – we hope to see you again next week! Feel free to bring a friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great history lesson — I was not away the daughter campaigned against it in later years. My mom is still with us, although 1,500 miles away. I called, but it wasn’t the same as being with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right Jackie…it’s never the same but what I would do to even be able to pick up the phone and talk to my mom. Cherish every moment with yours whether together or miles away. Technology certainly makes it easy to “see” each other every day.


  24. What a beautiful post as a tribute to your mom, Beth! And thanks for the great lesson on Mother’s Day, I never thought about the history of it, but just that we celebrate it because we’re worth it (not that that’s not true also :))

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you for sharing. I never knew the history and it kind of surprised me. Future Mother’s Day celebrations will be colored by my new knowledge. And, I think I will have a cookie and a smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sue

    I love learning how concepts began, so this was a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Such a great post! I loved the history and the heartfelt, bittersweet memories about your own mom. Visiting late from FridaySharefest. Happy belated Mother’s Day! Or is it Mothers’ Day? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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