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History of Mother's Day: Why we celebrate moms on the second Sunday in May

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day a national holiday to be observed on the second Sunday in May.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The majority of Americans are celebrating Mother's Day with their mom(s) this weekend. That said, few of us know how the national day to celebrate mom started and the woman credited with getting the day on the calendar. 

How did Mother's Day start?

According to britannica.com, Anna Jarvis originated Mother’s Day in May 1908. Jarvis's mother was known for organizing women's groups to promote health and friendship. Her mother died in 1905. 

In the wake of her mother's death, Jarvis wanted to set aside a day to honor the sacrifices of mothers for their children. In May 1908, she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, according to history.com.

Credit: Library of Congress
Anne Reeves Jarvis inspired the creation of Mother's Day because of her work with community groups to improve public health and sanitary conditions.

As the annual celebration became popular around the country, Jarvis asked members of Congress to set aside a day to honor mothers. She finally succeeded in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday to be observed on the second Sunday in May. 

Mother's Day intent goes off the rails

Jarvis wanted all to attend church and afterward, for children to spend time writing a note of appreciation to their mothers. 

Credit: Library of Congress
Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, the International Mother's Day Shrine. Grafton, West Virginia

By 1920, Jarvis started to denounce the commercialization of the day and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies, history.com reports. During her campaign to stop profiteers, reports state she filed lawsuits against groups that used the name "Mother's Day."

Before she died in 1948, Jarvis is said to have disowned the holiday and had actively lobbied the government to take it off the calendar as a national holiday in America. 

Although it's a profitable day for retailers, phone companies, and florists, the spirit of Mother's Day is still what Jarvis intended.  

6 facts about U.S. moms

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