Happy Mother's Day! - Sarah Woodbury

Happy Mother’s Day!

Growing up, my family scoffed at ‘Mother’s Day’ as a Hallmark Holiday, but I’m here to tell you that its roots go all the way back to ancient times. Mother’s Day was not designed to honor mothers, per se, but part of the worship of goddesses within the pagan world. In Ancient Greece, Cybele, or the ‘great mother’ was honored as the mother of “most of the major deities including Zeus . . . [she was] the mother goddess, and the festival took place around the time of the Vernal Equinox.” http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/about-mothersday/history/

Later, the Christian Church adopted the holiday (Romans worshipped the goddess, Hilaria, and the Egyptians, Isis) as the day to celebrate the “Mother Church”. In the Celtic church, people honored first the pagan goddess, Brigid and then ‘St Brigid’, with the first milk of the ewes. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/mothersday/a/early.htm

Furthermore, “in the 1600’s a clerical decree in England broadened the celebration to include real Mothers, earning the name Mothering Day. Mothering Day became an especially compassionate holiday toward the working classes of England. During this Lenten Sunday, servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. Mothering Day also provided a one-day reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent so that families across England could enjoy a sumptuous family feast—Mother was the guest of honor. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers, as well as a visit from their beloved and distant children.”

“Mother’s Day” as a holiday was abandoned by settlers to America, and not revived until 1858, when Ann Reeves Jarvis organized Mother’s work clubs in West Virginia to improve sanitary conditions and the infant/mother mortality rate.  Of Jarvis’ 13 children, only 4 lived to adulthood.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/36969170/ns/today-mothers_day_guide/

In 1870, Julia Howe, after living through the devastation of the Civil War penned a fitting sequel to the Battle Hymn of the Republic–this poem was as a protest against war:  http://www.chiff.com/a/mothers-day-origins.htm


Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interest of peace.



After a varied campaigning effort, much on the part of Ann Jarvis’ daughter, named Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day was inaugurated on May 8, 1914.  The U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day and requesting a proclamation. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation, declaring the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother’s_Day_(U.S.)

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