Happy Mother’s Day! A long history of honoring mothers

Happy Mother’s Day! A long history of honoring mothers



In May we celebrate Mother’s Day, honoring the commitments that mothers make on behalf of children. As those who carry life, feed, nurture, teach, care, and protect their children, Mother’s Day expresses our appreciation for their outsized roles in our lives. Honoring mothers goes back to ancient times, yet its American expression goes back to 1905 when Anna Jarvis began a campaign to make Mother’s Day a national holiday, which it became in 1914.

While this holiday is associated with cards, breakfast in bed, chocolates, carnations, and often attendance at religious services with one’s mother, its origins are richer and more broadly focused than just the family. Anna Jarvis sought to honor her mother Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, who helped organize women in different communities in Virginia’s Appalachian communities. These Mother’s Day Work Clubs (MDWC) were trained by doctors to improve hygiene practices and combat epidemic diseases that killed nearly a quarter of children before their first birthday.

Ann Marie lived in a railroad town shared by Union and Confederate forces; she took a position of neutrality. MDWC members fed and clothed soldiers, tended the wounded, and helped combat typhoid and measles outbreaks in both camps. That experience made her a peace activist. In an area so contentious it split the state into West Virginia, she organized a Mothers Friendship Day after the war to heal animosities. This aligned with abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe’s idea to bring mothers together to promote peace and harmony in a nation still suffering from bitter post-war anger.

As we honor our mother on this Day, let us recall its broader focus. How do we nurture and protect those beyond our home? How are we promoting peace and public health? How can we heal animosities in a nation suffering from bitter anger?


Rev Sybrant has a Masters in Divinity, Social Work, and a Doctor of Ministry. For more information, visit us at 15050 SW Weir Road, www.murrayhills.org | 503-524-5230