Mother’s Day: Millions of Americans celebrate ‘Mom’—however defined

SUNDAY, MAY 8: Honor Mom today with a bouquet of flowers, a homemade card or just your time, as today marks the American version of Mother’s Day.

A 1908 church service in West Virginia gave birth to the holiday now known across the U.S. as Mother’s Day—a national holiday that, annually, grosses billions of dollars in flowers, gifts and cards and pays homage to the millions of mothers across the country. Though versions of the current American Mother’s Day predated its creation—and, worldwide, several variations have existed for centuries—today’s modern holiday holds no ties to a particular historical saint or figure, but, rather, just to Mom. The first “official” service took place at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis honored her own mother. After exhaustive campaigning by Jarvis, President Woodrow Wilson set aside the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, by 1914.

It may seem ironic that the primary advocate of the first Mother’s Day—Anna Jarvis—soon regretted having petitioned so persistently for the holiday, as the commercialism that rapidly followed its ascent was a stark contrast to the small-scale, personalized holiday that had originally been envisioned. Nonetheless, experts attest that had it not been for the early commercialization of Mother’s Day, it—like other smaller holidays of its time—would likely have fizzled out.

Did you know? Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church of Grafton, built in 1873, became the site of an International Mother’s Day Shrine in the 1960s. In 1992, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

During the 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitation conditions, lower rates of infant mortality, fight disease and contamination and assist other mothers. When the Civil War broke out, women in these clubs looked after wounded soldiers. Upon the death of Ann Reeves Jarvis in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, was prompted to organize a tribute service for her at her church. Jarvis distributed hundreds of carnations—her mother’s favorite flower—to mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton.


Hallmark is releasing cards for Mother’s Day 2016 geared toward the “new normal” of family structures, reports USA Today. This year, card messages focus not only on traditional moms, but also on stay-at-home dads, divorced parents and same-sex couples. According to a Hallmark representative, “Now you see a huge range of situations represented … We are really trying to represent a diverse range of relationships that represent current society.”


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