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Dayhoff: Happy Mother’s Day: A look at the history of the holiday in Carroll County and beyond

Our modern day concept of Mother’s Day evolved from a memorial service in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War and was formally recognized in the United States in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution marking the second Sunday in May a nationwide observance.

In the beginning it was just Mom and me: Louise Warfield Wright and Kevin Dayhoff – Ward Avenue Apartments in Westminster in 1953. Together we learned that fear is never an option. If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to do it from the start. Kevin Dayhoff collection.
In the beginning it was just Mom and me: Louise Warfield Wright and Kevin Dayhoff – Ward Avenue Apartments in Westminster in 1953. Together we learned that fear is never an option. If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to do it from the start. Kevin Dayhoff collection. (Kevin Dayhoff)

According to a story carried by ABC News on March 11, 2020, “In the 17th century, England celebrated a day called “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday of Lent…. Some families would enjoy a “mothering cake” or carlings – pancakes made of steeped peas fried in butter, with salt and pepper – as part of their celebration…

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“Many countries throughout the world devote a day – or, in some cases, two or more days – to honor their mothers. The tradition dates back to pagan celebrations in ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. In Rome, too, Cybele, a mother of goddesses, was worshipped as early as 250 B.C…”

Ninety-seven years ago Mother’s Day services were held in Carroll County at the Methodist Protestant Church in Westminster. The sermon for the observances was titled “Mother’s Victories,” and “appropriate music” was featured at the services. Unfortunately, the May 9, 1924, article in the Democratic Advocate did not mention the name of the pastor or characterize the nature of “appropriate music.”

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Over the years I have read a number of accounts about the origins of Mother’s Day. They vary in detail here and there but are fairly consistent. I have written about the origins of Mother’s Day before. Much of this discussion has been published before – especially versions that appeared in the Baltimore Sun over 10 years ago, in May 2010 and 2011. In my view, any story about Mother’s Day is worth repeating.

A number of years ago the Baltimore Sun ran a version of the history that reported, “Mother’s Day actually began as a memorial observance. Anna Reeves Jarvis had organized ‘work days’ for mothers in West Virginia to heal the divisions of the Civil War, and often spoke of wanting to establish a day to honor mothers.

“When she died on May 9, 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, took up the cause. The first Mother’s Day service took place at a Methodist Episcopal church in Grafton, W.Va., two years later, with Jarvis sending 500 white carnations for those in attendance to wear…”

Another slight variation on the history of Mother’s Day comes from old file notes that the first Mother’s Day was observed in an effort to heal the tensions, wounds, and hard feelings left over from the war that had torn the town of Grafton, West Virginia, apart.

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According to my notes, “A happier future awaited the town, and it was largely due to the efforts of one woman, Anna Maria Jarvis. In 1868, Jarvis invited everyone in the town to attend a Mothers’ Friendship Day. In this version of the story, songs such as “Auld Lang Syne,” the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “Way Down South in Dixie” were played.

A well-written short version of the history of Mother’s Day may be found on the Historical Society of Carroll County website here: https://hsccmd.org/mothers-day/. The article mentions that “in 1870, Julia Ward Howe – noted author and abolitionist – wrote a “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” asking mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873, Howe campaigned for a ‘Mother’s Peace Day’ to be celebrated every June 2…”

Mother’s Day evolved from a memorial service in 1868, in the aftermath of the Civil War and was formally recognized in the United States in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution marking the second Sunday in May a nationwide observance. Photo illustration by Kevin Dayhoff
Mother’s Day evolved from a memorial service in 1868, in the aftermath of the Civil War and was formally recognized in the United States in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution marking the second Sunday in May a nationwide observance. Photo illustration by Kevin Dayhoff (Kevin Dayhoff)

According to one published account on May 11, 2008, by April Vitello, “the woman credited with creating one of the world’s most celebrated holidays probably wouldn’t be pleased with all the flowers, candy, or gifts… Anna Jarvis would want us to give mothers a white carnation — she felt it signified the purity of a mother’s love. Jarvis, who never married and never had children, got the Mother’s Day idea after her mother (Anna Reeves Jarvis) said it would be nice if someone created a memorial to mothers.

“Three years after her mother died in 1905, she organized the first official mother’s day service at a church where her mother had spent more than 20 years teaching Sunday school…

“By all accounts, Jarvis’ mother Ann was a community activist who worked to heal the divisions in north-central West Virginia following the Civil War, and to promote improved sanitation by creating Mothers Friendship Clubs.

“‘I would love to be like Mrs. Jarvis,’ said Olive Dadisman, who operates the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum in nearby Webster (West Virginia.) ‘She was a soft-spoken, gentle woman, but she could convince the devil to give up his pitch fork.’”

“Jarvis became increasingly disturbed as the celebration turned into an excuse to sell greeting cards, candy, flowers… Jarvis became known for scathing letters in which she would berate people who purchased greeting cards, saying they were too lazy to write personal letters ‘to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.’

“Before she died in 1948, she protested at a Mother’s Day celebration in New York, and was arrested for disturbing the peace…”

Today, the origins of the day are not nearly as important as much as it is to take the opportunity today to spend some time with your mom, family and loved ones. Disturbing the peace to accent the day is optional.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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