When did Mothering Sunday begin?
The day has long been associated with mothers and family. For centuries, it was custom for people to return home to their ‘mother’ church on Laetare Sunday – the middle of Lent. Those who did so were said to have gone ‘a-mothering’.
The day often turned into a family reunion and a chance for children working away from home – often domestic servants – to spend time with their mothers.
Anna Jarvis founded the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States
Many used to pick flowers from the verges along the way to leave in the church or hand to their mothers when they got home.
But it was American social activist Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) from Philadelphia who campaigned for an official day to honour mothers in the US and is regarded as the “Mother of Mother’s Day”. She dedicated her life to lobbying for the day after swearing she would do so after her mother’s death.
A French Mother’s Day poster Photo: Getty Images
However, she became increasingly concerned at the commercialisation of the day, saying “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She also didn’t like the selling of flowers and the use of greetings cards which she described as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write”.
In May 1932, Mother’s Day was adopted in Japan, after 19 years of observance by Christians, showing the wide reach of Jarvis and the embracement of Mother’s Day internationally.
Meanwhile, in Britain, vicar’s daughter Constance Smith was inspired by a 1913 newspaper report of Jarvis’ campaign and began a push for the day to be officially marked in England.
Smith, of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, founded the Mothering Sunday Movement and even wrote a booklet The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920. Neither Smith nor Jarvis became mother’s themselves.
By 1938 Mothering Sunday had become a popular celebration with Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and various parishes across Britain marking the day and communities adopting the imported traditions of American and Canadian soldiers during the war.
By the 1950s, it was being celebrated throughout Britain and businesses realised the commercial opportunities.