The history of Mother’s Day gives us two founders; Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.
Mrs. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis (Anna’s mother) organized several "Mothers Day Work Clubs" in the 1850s in the West Virginia area (the name of the clubs was later changed to "Mothers Friendship Clubs"), to combat the poor health and sanitation conditions that existed in many areas and contributed to the high mortality rate of children.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis called together four of her Clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and goodwill would not be a victim of the conflict between the states. The members of these Clubs nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.
After the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis worked as a peacemaker encouraging families to set aside differences created by the polarization of the war. In 1868, she organized a "Mothers Friendship Day" to bring together families that had been divided by the conflict.
When her mother passed away, Anna Jarvis was at her graveside and recalled something her mother often said:
“I hope that someone, sometime, will found a Memorial Mothers Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”Then and there, Anna made a promise to her mother:
“The time and place is here and the someone is your daughter, and by the grace of God, you shall have that Mothers Day.”Her efforts paid off and in time, President Woodrow Wilson made it official: Mother's Day would be a national holiday held each year on the second Sunday in May. An interesting side note is that the apostrophe was moved from M O T H E R S’ to M O T H E R’S. Mothers as a group had just been disenfranchised and the profits started rolling in.
Anna Jarvis was not happy with the way it turned out;
“I wanted a day of sentiment, not profit."
But Julia Ward Howe is who I and many others in the peace community use as our Mothers’ day originator. In 1870 she wrote her famous proclamation:
Arise, then, women of this day!Julia Ward Howe was a Boston writer, pacifist, suffragist, and author of the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and first suggested a Mothers' Day in 1872. She saw it as a day dedicated to peace.
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have great questions decided 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."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out 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 at 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 interests of peace.
Howe was greatly distressed to see Europe plunged into the Franco-Prussian War so soon after her generation had suffered through the American Civil War. For several years she worked toward the recognition of a "Mothers' Day for Peace" on June 2. She organized meetings in Boston, MA as a rally for women, whom she believed bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else. Men showed little interest in her ideas, but she appealed to war mothers, the women who supported husbands and sons at war, pleading,
"Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?"