SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Celebrations of motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but the modern precedent for Mother's Day is the Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” In the UK and parts of Europe, on Mothering Sunday, children would bring their mothers flowers and other tokens of appreciation, according to History.com.
The origins of Mother’s Day in the U.S. date back to the years just before the Civil War when Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach women how to properly care for their children. In 1868, she organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
Mother’s Day became an official U.S. holiday thanks to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, following her mother’s death in 1905. She conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She got Wanamaker's department store to sponsor the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Meanwhile, thousands of people attended a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s stores in Philadelphia.
Jarvis, who never married and had no children, made it her mission to have Mother's Day become a national holiday. She started a letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians urging the observance of a day honoring mothers. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a law establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Florists, card companies, and retailers capitalized on Mother’s Day since its inception. Although Jarvis initially worked with the floral industry to help raise awareness of Mother’s Day’s, she eventually denounced its commercialism and began urging Americans to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.
Despite Jarvis's efforts to decommercialize the holiday, Americans continued to spend for Mother's Day, which eventually become one of the biggest U.S. holidays for consumer spending.