Image: Ijaz Rafi

On this day in history, May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for Americans to show a public expression of reverence to mothers through the celebration of Mother’s Day.

“Proclamation 1268 – Mother’s Day” stated, in part, “Whereas, by a Joint Resolution approved May 8, 1914, designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, and for other purposes, the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings,” according to The American Presidency Project of the University of California Santa Barbara.

The proclamation continued, “And the people of the United States [can] display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

The first unofficial Mother’s Day observances were organized by West Virginia resident Anna Jarvis and held in Grafton, West Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Anna Jarvis’s push for a special day to celebrate mothers was one she inherited from her own mother, social activist Anne Reeves Jarvis, said the BBC.

“Mrs. [Anne Reeves] Jarvis had spent her life mobilizing mothers to care for their children, says historian Katharine Antolini, and she wanted mothers’ work to be recognized,” that outlet noted.

Woodrow Wilson and Mother's Day split

President Woodrow Wilson, shown here, issued a proclamation regarding the public expression of reverence for mothers through the celebration of Mother’s Day. (iStock/Getty Images, File)

“I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial Mother’s Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it,” Mrs. Jarvis said, according to the BBC.

Her daughter took up the mantle and began celebrating a special day to honor mothers.

“As the annual celebration became popular around the country, Jarvis became the driving force behind Mother’s Day and asked members of Congress to set aside a day to honor mothers,” the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

In May 1908, after receiving financial support from Philadelphia department store owner John Wanamaker, Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, noted History.com.

“That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia,” said the same site. 

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Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis, who remained unmarried and childless her whole life, wanted to see the holiday added to the national calendar, said History.com.

She embarked on letter-writing initiative to politicians and newspapers urging them to honor motherhood, that site also noted.

Above, suffragettes shown carrying a banner announcing that “women have full suffrage in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho” at the Women of All Nations Parade in New York on May 3, 1916. The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, was honoring her own mother, a social activist (not shown), with her idea for a special day to honor mothers. (Paul Thompson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

By 1912, some states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause, the site also noted.

Support for acknowledging and honoring American mothers continued when, on May 10, 1913, the House of Representatives passed a resolution asking all federal government officials to wear a white carnation the following day in observance of Mother’s Day, the Boston Public Library’s website said.

On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The next day, President Wilson issued a proclamation on the issue, said the same site. 

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