A Brief History of Mother’s Day in America


Honoring and celebrating Mother’s day traces as far back in recorded history as the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian goddess Isis was considered the patron saint of women and children. She was revered among the Egyptians who held an annual festival in her honor. Of all of the ancient Egyptian deities, her legend has survived the centuries and even crossed into other cultures.

The Romans held a place for her in their temple and would have three-day festivals. Most of the festival’s dancers musicians and singers were all females. The Roman festival of Isis was celebrated to mark the beginning of winter or before an important battle.

The ancient Greeks used to honor Mother’s every spring for three days. The Greeks would hold a festival filled with games, parades, food, and entertainment. The festival is dedicated to the Mother goddess Rhea. In Greek mythology, Rhea was a Titan, the mother of many Greek gods including Zeus. Legend has it that Rhea’s husband Chronos was fearful of a prophecy that told of him being overthrown by one of his sons. So whenever Rhea would give birth to a boy, Chronos would swallow the baby.


When Zeus was born, Rhea hid him away in a cave and tricked Kronos into swallowing a stone she had wrapped in clothes. Eventually, Zeus returned to defeat his father and force him to vomit forth his brothers who gratefully made Zeus their leader and joined him in revolt against the Titans. His mother goddess Rhea name means “flow and ease”. As the wife of Kronos, she represents the eternal flow of time and generations. Every dawn of the ancient festival day, honey cakes and flowers were shared. This became a tradition that spread throughout Asia Minor, all the way to the Romans.

The Romans tried to unsuccessfully introduce their own goddess, Cybele, to the Greeks. Cybele was also known as Magna Mater or the Great Mother. The Roman celebration of Magna Mater took place between March 15th and March 22nd, around the same time as the Greek Festival of Rhea.

Later in Europe, an early incarnation of a holiday to honor motherhood started in the Christian Church. This day would be referred to as Mothering Day or Mothering Sunday. This became a day when the whole family could gather together.

By the 1920s, the custom of Mothering Sunday had spread to Ireland and other parts of Europe. When the first English settlers came to America, the Mothering Day tradition was left behind. There are different explanations for this happening – one reason being the harsh conditions the early settlers faced which left little time for celebrations. Another reason was the Puritans that fled England to America wanted to practice more conservatively and ignored the more secular holidays.

The first North American Mother’s Day probably started with Julia Ward Howe‘s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. She was troubled by the death and destruction of the Civil War. She called on mothers to come together in protest of what she saw as senseless killing. Sons killing the sons of other mothers. Howe proposed converting July 4th to Mother’s Day to dedicate to the nation’s anniversary of peace.

Julia Ward Howe

Instead, this new Mother’s holiday was designated on June 2nd. In 1873, women’s groups across North America observed this new Mother’s holiday, but most of these groups died out when House funding dried up. However, the seed was planted and on May 9th, 1905, a woman named Anna Jarvis began campaigning for an official day to honor mothers, after her own mother had passed away.

Anna Jarvis was inspired by her mother’s life work and petitioned the church where her mother taught Sunday School to hold a Mother’s Day celebration. On may 10th of 1908, the official Mother’s Day celebration took place at two churches – one in Grafton, West Virginia and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The West Virginia event drew over 400 and Anna Jarvis arranged for white carnations to be given to every mother in attendance. Anna Jarvis quit working and devoted herself full-time to the creation of Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis

After endless petitions, she finally convinced the World Sunday School Organization to back her and in 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day.

Two years later Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance. From that point on, the second Sunday in May would be Mother’s Day.

Nowadays, Mother’s Day is widely celebrated worldwide, on which occasion families and friends gather together, complimenting each other. In this article, Roses Only proposes some of the most inspiring Mother’s Day quotes if you want to surprise your loved one with a special wish.


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