History of Mother’s Day: A Holiday of Love and Regret

Susan Shalikar, Writer

This Mother’s Day will be the 109th year of being an official holiday in the United States. This holiday is for celebrating your mother (even though you should be doing that all the time). However, did you know that the creator of this holiday, Anna Jarvis, tried to get it removed from the calendar once it started to be commercialized? This article will go over the history of Mother’s Day and how it changed from Anna Jarvis’ intended plan. 

Photo of Anna Jarvis by Washington, D.C.-based firm

As mentioned above, Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day to honor mothers. She was born on May 1, 1864 and passed away on November 24, 1948. Once she got her diploma at the Augusta Female Seminary in Staunton, Virginia, now known as Mary Baldwin University, she returned to her home at Grafton to work in the public school system. Jarvis then joined her mother as an active church member. The inspiration for a day for mothers came to Anna when she was 12 years old. Her mother had recited a prayer that stuck with her ever since. The prayer by her mother said: “I hope that someone, sometime will find a memorial Mother’s Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”  After her mother’s death, Jarvis led a movement to create this holiday that would honor the sacrifices that mothers make for their children. This is a very touching story about how this holiday came to life, but like most holidays, it took a commercialized turn that Anna Jarvis did not like.  

After all of Anna Jarvis’ hard work fighting for Mother’s Day, President Wilson finally signed to allow the day to be a national holiday in the United States in 1914. However, instead of the holiday being personal, the way that Anna Jarvis wanted, businesses took advantage of this opportunity to sell Mother’s Day gifts like flowers, candies, and cards. Anna Jarvis began to resent the holiday because of this. She started a campaign to have it removed, but it did not work. No matter what Anna did, the holiday continued. By 1948, the year she passed away, Jarvis had completely renounced the holiday. 

Photo of Mother’s Day cards by Susan Shalikar

This is the history of Mother’s Day! Anna Jarvis worked so hard for the holiday to become a holiday, but it turned back on her and became a nightmare. For this Mother’s Day, instead of just buying gifts, express your appreciation to your mother in private for the things she has done, like how Anna Jarvis intended. 


Information from: “Mother’s Day 2023 – Date, Founding & Traditions.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day.