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'Glory Hallelujah': How Mother's Day in the U.S derived from the American Civil War

The first Mother's Day in North America was in 1908, it was given national observance in 1914 by Woodrow Wilson, but the origins were much earlier.

UNITED STATES, — Mother's Day, in some form or another, has been celebrated around the world for centuries. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had festivals, or days, devoted to "mother like" goddesses. 

In more modern times it has taken on a different meaning and Mother's Days around the world now celebrate moms, all moms. A day to perhaps let moms sleep in, cook them breakfast, do their laundry... you know, all the things they do on the daily.

In the United States, Mother's Day also has a patriotic background and meaning. Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist who wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in 1861 about the Civil War, also issued a Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870.

Credit: National Women's History Museum
Julia Ward Howe

"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 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 of ten forsaken the plow 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 then 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 some place 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."

"Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers," researchhistory.org

Some cities celebrated her call for a Mother's Day to recognize peace and motherhood, but it never really took off.

Years later a woman from West Virginia named Anna Reeves Jarvis, followed by her daughter Anna M. Jarvis, petitioned their church for the day. May 10, 1908, was the first "official" celebration. 

Finally, in 1912 West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize the day. Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance in 1914. 

Ironically, as the holiday became more commercial, M. Jarvis spent the rest of her days protesting the day she once fought for.

Credit: FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Anna M. Jarvis

Either way, whether people celebrate Mother's Day with lavish gifts and presents or just some quality time. Remember, the day originated to remember those lost in war and the mothers forever affected by it. 

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