Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mother's Day Centennial


Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day
Credit: Wikipedia
This year, Mother’s Day celebrates its centennial anniversary! Mother’s Day became a national holiday on May 9, 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as a day to honor the hard work and dedication of mothers. The campaign for Mother’s Day started in the early 1900s by a woman named Anna Jarvis in West Virginia.

Jarvis advocated for a holiday honoring the sacrifices that mothers make every day for their children. She argued that many of the American holidays at that time were biased toward male achievements. In 1908, five years after her own mother’s death, Jarvis organized a memorial ceremony at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, to honor not only her mother but also all mothers present. Jarvis also started a letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians, including Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft, urging them to adopt the holiday. With the help of the World’s Sunday School Association, a key influencer for Jarvis’ cause among legislatures and Congress, 46 states observed the holiday by 1909.


A Mother's Day card from the 1920s
Credit: Hallmark
Legislative action for Mother’s Day was initiated by Elmer Burkett, a senator from Nebraska, in 1908. At the request of the YMCA, Burkett presented the first bill that proposed the national holiday in the US Senate. In 1914, Congress passed a joint resolution designating the second Sunday of May as the national observance of Mother’s Day. Wilson signed the bill into law, proclaiming the day “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” He selected May 9th, 1914, to be the first national Mother’s Day, as it was the anniversary of Jarvis’ mother’s death.




Janet "Jessie" Woodrow Wilson
Wilson was very fond his mother, Janet “Jessie” Woodrow Wilson. She was born on December 20, 1826 in Carlisle, England, and her family moved to the US when she was five years old. Unfortunately, her own mother passed away while traveling across the Atlantic. The family eventually settled in Ohio, where Jessie was raised by her aunt. Jessie’s father later remarried and began to distance himself from his first family. Jessie married Woodrow’s father, Joseph Wilson, in 1849. The couple had two daughters before Wilson was born in 1856. Many people say Wilson inherited his mother’s long jaw, angular features, and blue-gray eyes. He often called himself a “mama’s boy” and stated in a letter to his first wife Ellen that “the best of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.” Jessie passed away on April 15th, 1888 in Clarksville, Montgomery, Tennessee. The future president was deeply affected by her death: “Her loss has left me with a sad, oppressive sense of having somehow suddenly lost my youth. I feel old and responsibility-ridden.”


What are you doing this year to celebrate the mothers in your life? Come join the President Woodrow Wilson House for our Mother’s Day Centennial Luncheon at the Willard Intercontinental! Tickets are available here

-Catherine Yuan

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