Mother's Day in the United States was first proclaimed in 1870
in Boston by Julia Ward Howe, and Howe called for it to be observed
each year nationally in 1872. As originally envisioned, Howe's "Mother's
Day" was a call for Pacifism and disarmament by women. Early
"Mother's Day" was mostly marked by women's peace groups.
A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose
sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil
In 1907 Mother's Day was first celebrated in a small private way
by Anna Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia, to commemorate the anniversary
of her mother's death two years earlier on May 9, 1905. Jarvis's
mother, also named Anna Jarvis, had been active in Mother's Day
campaigns for peace and worker's safety and health. The younger
Jarvis launched a quest to get wider recognition of Mother's Day.
The celebration organized by Jarvis on May 10, 1908 involved 407
children with their mothers at the Andrew's Methodist Church in
Grafton. The following campaign to recognize Mother's Day was financed
by clothing merchant John Wanamaker. As the custom of Mother's Day
spread, the emphasis shifted from the pacificism and reform movements
to a general appreciation of mothers.
The first official recognition of the holiday was by West Virginia
A proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's
Day was signed by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson on May 14, 1914.
A tradition calls for the wearing of carnations on Mother's Day—a
red one if one's mother is alive, and white if she has died.