May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Since Mother’s Day is this weekend, we decided to put together some of our best photographs of proud women in their role as mothers. We also put together some facts about the history of how this holiday was established in the US.

Blanche Chenoweth and her son

Some first efforts to establish a day to commemorate mothers were done in the 19th century, when Ann Reeves Jarvis held “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs “ to teach women how to improve the sanitary conditions in West Virginia, to try and lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination.

In addition, this group of women also worked as volunteers tending wounded soldiers of both sides during the US Civil War from 1861 to 1865. After the war, the women created a “Mother's Friendship Day,” where people would meet in picnics and women had an active role in promoting peace. Julia Ward Howe, a Bostonian, composed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and she also wrote and issued a popular "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870, as a call for women in the US to participate socially and politically to promote peace and reconciliation between the Union and Confederate States.

However, it is Ann Jarvis' daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, who is considered responsible for establishing the tradition as we celebrate it today. Inspired by her mother’s efforts Anna continued promoting the holiday after her mother’s death in May 9, 1905. On May 12, 1907, Anna announced her idea of day of national celebration in honor of mothers. She also passed out white carnations for every mother present in the St. Andrew’s Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where her mother had taught for over 20 years.

Woman holding baby in front of car

On May 10, 1908, the first Mother's Day celebration was held in the church as a service where white carnations were passed out again. Later, West Virginia Governor William E. Glasscock issued the first Mother's Day proclamation on April 26, 1910. The day was established as a national holiday in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson, who passed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Woman and baby

Although Anna Jarvis had the idea the celebration would be deeply intimate, a true honoring of our mother’s, the holiday became so widespread and popular that It became commercially profitable. In this holiday more flowers and greeting cards are bought that in any other day, and phone traffic increases by 37%.

For the rest of her life until her death in 1948, she dedicated herself to trying to return Mother’s Day to a simple celebration in which each of us thanks and honors our mother's for all they do.

Family in Feb 1979 Breakthrough

Visit the Blanche Espy Chenoweth, Her Life, Her Times, the Harry Walker Photographs, and the Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters collections for more photographs of women celebrating motherhood. 

From all of us at the UH Digital Library, have a happy Mother's Day!

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