The History of Mother’s Day

When is Mothers Day? It’s May 12 this year, but that hasn’t always been the case. We provide a brief history of this happy holiday.

Ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals to celebrate their maternal goddesses. These celebrations are the earliest signs of Mother’s Day.

In 1870, abolitionist and poet Julia Ward Howe established a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” as “an appeal to womanhood throughout the world.” Howe’s holiday, celebrated on June 2nd, was feted for a decade in Boston, but eventually lost momentum.

Since the sixteenth century, Europeans have been celebrating Mothering Sunday on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Its roots are in religion, but its purpose now is much like the American holiday—to spoil and cherish our mothers.

The modern practice of Mother’s Day began in 1908, thanks to Anna Jarvis. She campaigned to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday after the death of her own mom.

Jarvis’ version of the holiday is the most closely related to what we celebrate today. It’s been reported that Jarvis was saddened by the commercialization of the event, but we think the message is still clear: Mother’s Day honors the love and sacrifices that all mothers make for their children.