Mothers’ Day was held in Boston in 1872 at the suggestion of Julia Ward Howe, writer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But it was Anna Jarvis, daughter of a Methodist minister in Grafton, West Virginia, who made it a national event.
During the Civil War, Anna Jarvis’ mother organized Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to care for wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate. She raised money for medicine, inspected bottled milk, improved sanitation and hired women to care for families where mothers suffered from tuberculosis.
In her mother’s honor, Anna Jarvis persuaded her church to set aside the second Sunday in May, the anniversary of her mother’s death, as a day to appreciate all mothers. Encouraged by the reception, Anna Jarvis organized it in Philadelphia, then began a letter-writing campaign to ministers, businessmen and politicians to establish a national Mothers’ Day.
In response, on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first National Mothers’ Day as a “public expression of … love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
President Reagan said in his Mother’s Day Proclamation, 1986: “A Jewish saying sums it up: ‘God could not be everywhere – so He created mothers.'”
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” wrote American poet William Ross Wallace, who died May 5, 1881.
This concept was echoed by historians Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History, 1968: “Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted … civilization would die, and we should be savages again.”
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