Mother’s Day Centennial: Celebrating Mom for 100 years

Asian mother with infant daughter, dressed in pink, both smiling

Photo by Din Jimenez, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, MAY 11: There’s no one in the world quite like Mom, so honor her the way Anna Jarvis intended, on this centennial anniversary of Mother’s Day.

Although humans have been celebrating motherhood for millennia, the modern American version of Mother’s Day—the one we all know today—began in 1908 with Anna Jarvis. Determined to bring awareness to the vital role of each mother in her family, Jarvis began campaigning for a “Mother’s Day,” and finally was successful in reaching the whole country in 1914. Jarvis’s concept differed considerably from corporate interests in the holiday, however, and the over-commercialization of Mother’s Day was irritating to Jarvis as early as the 1920s. This year, in honor of the Mother’s Day centennial, honor Mom the way Jarvis intended: with a hand-written letter, a visit, a homemade gift or a meal, cooked from scratch.

After all, Mom’s worth it, right?

Care to read a wonderfully inspiring column about these relationships? Author Debra Darvick’s headline—to mark this centennial—is, The best words: ‘I had a mother who read to me …’

Want even more? Click here to visit ReadTheSpirit magazine’s front page, where you’ll find a dozen more stories about Mother’s Day, Moms and their families.


American observances honoring mothers began popping up in the 1870s and 1880s, but Jarvis’s campaigns were the first to make it beyond the local level. The first “official” Mother’s Day service was actually a memorial ceremony, held at Jarvis’s church, in 1908; the 500 carnations given out at that first celebration have given way to the widespread custom of distributing carnations to mothers on this day. (Wikipedia has details.) For Anna, the floral choice was easy: Carnations were her mother’s favorite flowers.

President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1914, sending the holiday coast to coast.

Despite Jarvis’s best efforts, the commercialization of Mother’s Day was inevitable. Mother’s Day is now one of the most financially successful holidays on the American calendar—mainly because it is the most popular day of the year to eat out and to make phone calls. Each year, Americans spend $2.6 billion on flowers for Mother’s Day; $1.53 billion on gifts; and $68 million on greeting cards.


It seems that brunch is to Mother’s Day like cookies and milk are to Santa, and we’ve got plenty of ideas to get you started! Here are just a few, plus gift and craft ideas to boot:

Bouquet of assorted flowers wrapped in pink tissue paper

Photo by Kanko, courtesy of Flickr

(Originally published at, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

Mother’s Day: ‘Arise, women!’ (Know the origins of the holiday?)

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”

-Excerpted and adapted by Ken Sehested, from Julia Ward Howe’s “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World,” September 1870

Caucasion mother kisses baby over shoulder

Photo courtesy of Goodnight Photography Studio, via Flickr

SUNDAY, MAY 12: Give thanks to Mom, Grandma and any maternal figure in your life today on this, the second Sunday of May—it’s Mother’s Day.

The modern observance of Mother’s Day began with Anna Jarvis in 1908, when she collaborated with the founder of Bethany Temple Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. From the beginning, Jarvis specified the day should be “Mother’s Day,” as a singular possessive, so that each person would honor their own mother. Jarvis herself promoted the holiday tirelessly until she caught the attention of President Woodrow Wilson, who made the day an official national holiday in 1914. (Wikipedia has details.) Unfortunately, the day became so commercialized that Jarvis later regretted having established the holiday at all.

Did you know? Mother’s Day yields the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Most churches honor their congregation’s mothers in some way—with a special prayer, perhaps, or in many congregations with a flower.

In search of the perfect gift? Kaboose offers up do-it-yourself ideas for kids, while Mother Nature Network suggests gifts for moms who love gardening. For unique moms, Huffington Post has “weird” gifts, and Fox News suggests gifts that will boost Mom’s health.

Cooking Mom brunch? Look to Martha Stewart and AllRecipes for ideas and recipes. Or, visualize America’s 10 coolest Mother’s Day Brunches with a photo slideshow from ABC News.

African mother carries sleeping baby

Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

Care to care more? The Mother’s Day Movement supports women and girls in the developing world, with the belief that empowered women strongly impact the lives of their children and their communities. Help these women by donating your portion of the $14 billion spent annually on Mother’s Day. This year, the Mother’s Day Movement is focusing on the Fistula Foundation, which aids women who often suffer lifelong isolation resulting from difficulties in childbirth.

Or, try a Mother’s Day Prayer or learn the Catholic perspective with these Mother’s Day resources.

Want Mother’s Day By the Numbers? Check out


ReadTheSpirit is offering a couple of great ideas:
columnist Bobbie Lewis writes about the importance of actually setting aside time to talk to Mom and to listen to her. She calls her story Questions Left Unanswered; Stories Left Untold. Simple. Free. And, a great idea.
Second, ReadTheSpirit recommends a Hallmark movie debut this week, called The Confession, based on a best-selling Amish-themed novel by Beverly Lewis. It’s about a wealthy mother trying to find her long-lost Amish daughter.


Asian origin mother and baby look into distance

Photo courtesy of Flickr

While the modern observance of Mother’s Day began just a century ago, celebrations for women and mothers have been common throughout history. Greeks worshipped the mother goddess Cybele, while the Romans held the festival of Hilaria; Christians have observed Mothering Sunday for centuries, while Hindus have honored “Mata Tirtha Aunshi,” or “Mother Pilgrimage Fortnight.” The first American attempts for a “Mother’s Day for Peace” arose in the 1870s, when Julia Ward Howe called on mothers to support disarmament in the Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. Several decades later, Anna Jarvis created a holiday that became the Mother’s Day we know today.