What would life be without mothers? They’re everything in our lives – as friends, mentors, critics, nurses, teachers… In the endless roles that mothers play so that we can feel safe, secure, and loved.

Do you know how Mother’s Day began? It has nothing to do with candies, roses or all that “stuff” that we think of when we think of Mother’s day. You’ll be surprised to know that it started with the need for sanitation. Here’s how it happened….

It all started way back in 1858 in a small town called Webster in West Virginia. There was a woman who lived there by the name of Anna Reeves Jarvis who strived to improve sanitary conditions in the town by forming Mothers’ Day Work Clubs. The Clubs raised money to buy medicine and to hire help for mothers with TB (Tuberculosis), and inspected bottled milk and food.

During the Civil War she extended the purpose of the Mothers’ Day Work Club to continuing her work for improved sanitary conditions for both sides of the conflict as well as actually treating the wounded. This somehow led to the reconciliation of several family members divided by the war, and she is credited with saving thousands of lives because of her teachings about sanitation.

The daughter of that woman, Anna Jarvis, swore at her mother’s grave in 1905 to dedicate her life to her mother’s project and to work for the establishment of Mother’s Day. True to her word, she quit her job and dedicated herself full-time to campaigning for this special occasion we now observe.

On May 10th, in 1907, the church of Grafton, West Virginia became the shrine of the first unofficial Mother’s Day.

Her hard work finally paid off in 1914 as President Woodrow signed the resolution that officially established Mother’s Day in the United States.

Ironically – in light of modern celebrations of Mother’s Day - as the years passed by Ms. Jarvis became disappointed with the increasing commercialization of the holiday. She even frowned on the practice of sending greeting cards and flowers, and later became critical of many public figures that were associated with the celebration of Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis died in 1948 with no children of her own and was buried beside her beloved mother.

Similarly, another woman by the name of Julia Ward Howe who was also involved in the Civil War influenced the celebration of Mother’s Day. Ms. Howe was known best for being the author of the words to the “Battle Hymn to the Republic”.

She was so appalled by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War that she tried to issue a manifesto for peace at an international conference. In 1872, she began promoting the idea of a “Mother’s Day for Peace”. A year later mothers from 18 cities across America held a Mother’s Day for Peace Gathering. Some cities like Boston even continued to celebrate for many years, but the celebrations slowly died out once Howe was no longer paying for the costs.

It’s amazing to think that one woman – Anna Reeves Jarvis - whose simple goal of improved sanitation was able to build such a powerful bridge that she continues to connect people with different beliefs even today.

Modernly, Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world including Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Philippines, and Belgium. In fact more than 40 countries officially celebrate a Mother’s Day.

No matter who we are, how we grew up, or where we live, looking back at that time in our lives when we were still fragile, naïve and curious, for most of us it was – and continues to be - our mother who safely guided us on our journey of life.

Our deepest secrets, hurts, fears, and aspirations are all still kept in her locket of memories, and in ours. She nurtured our pain as hers; sometimes sacrificing the things she would have like to have bought for herself just to be able to buy us our latest whim.

However Mother’s Day is celebrated, we just have to keep in mind that it’s not the things we buy for her that matters, it’s the counting of our blessings, the appreciation of the love in our loves, and the opportunity to create a truly memorable Mother’s Day this year – both for yourself – and for those special people in your life.

Author's Bio: 

Tracy A. Phaup is an admiring daughter of Marian P. Turner.