Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world and on lots of different days throughout the year but originated in the USA in 1908. In the UK, Mother’s Day has been celebrated on Mothering Sunday since the 1950s when UK-based merchants realised the commercial opportunity and promoted the day here.
Mothering Sunday, Mother’s Day or Both?
Mothering Sunday always falls 3 weeks before Easter and in the 16th century was the day that people would return to their mother church. This meant either the church they were baptised in or the local parish church.
The day was often the only day that whole families could gather together as servants didn’t get free days on other occasions and family members tended to have conflicting working hours. For children who were in service or working as apprentices, this was an occasion for them to be reunited with their mother and family. As they walked to the church they would gather flowers as a small gift for their mothers.
By the 1920s, the tradition of Mothering Sunday had all but gone.
However, in 1913, Constance Adelaide Smith saw a newspaper article about Anna Jarvis, an American woman who wanted to introduce her celebration, Mother’s Day to England.
Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, created a committee to establish a ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’ in 1868 to reunite families divided by the Civil War, a day she wanted to expand into an annual memorial day for mothers. Though there were a few celebrations of mothers over the years, they were all local observances.
After Ann’s death, Anna began work to establish the present form of Mother’s Day beginning with a service in her Philadelphia Church in 1908. The following year, the day was widely celebrated in New York using white carnations as the symbol of the day.
In 1910, the state of West Virginia declared Mother’s Day a holiday and the rest of the states soon followed. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day.
Constance linked the American Mother’s Day to Mothering Sunday and published a booklet in 1920 which was noted in The Spectator in February 1921.
This is a leaflet she published in 1929 to promote the revival of Mothering Sunday.
Constance’s efforts to promote Mother’s Day together with the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad in World War II encouraged the day to be merged with Mothering Sunday, which was still practised by the Church of England and the Church of Ireland.
When merchants saw the commercial opportunities of Mother’s Day, they relentlessly promoted it in the UK and by the 1950s, it was celebrated across the UK.
The commercialisation of the holiday in America angered Anna Jarvis who felt that shop-bought cards and gifts were not the proper way to honour mothers. Instead, she promoted the idea of children writing a heartfelt letter to their mothers and protested a confectioner’s convention.
While Anna was frustrated by the commercialisation of her holiday, it had the effect of spreading the message of honouring and loving mothers around the world. Mother’s Day may be celebrated on different days in different countries, but the overall intent of each day is the same: to show love and respect for the women who have brought up the next generation of children.
Celebrating All Mums
Mother’s Day might have become a commercialised celebration, but it is also an opportunity to really think about everything our mums have done for us growing up. All mums are different, but as all women know, there are definitive ‘mum types’ that get bandied about online.
Here’s a little quiz to find out what sort of mum brought you up: