The early incarnations of the holiday
Gianni Dagli Orti/Shutterstock Like many modern holidays, Mother’s Day didn’t quite pop up out of the blue. The ancient Greeks and Romans dedicated festivals to the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, respectively. And 16th century England gave rise to Mothering Sunday, during which children would make a pilgrimage to their family church (aka their “mother” church) on the fourth Sunday of Lent. That trip also provided a good excuse for a family reunion—and a day off for domestic-servant workers, usually daughters, so they could see their mothers. Mothering Sunday is still celebrated in the U.K., though it is now generally a secular holiday.
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The “mother” of Mother’s Day
LightField Studios/Shutterstock Historical precedents aside, today’s version of Mother’s Day in the United States can be attributed to the tireless efforts of Anna Jarvis, who wasn’t actually a mother herself. She organized the first observance in 1908 to honor her own mother, who had died three years earlier. Katharine Antolini, author of Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Struggle for Control of Mother’s Day, explains, “It wasn’t to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you’ve ever known—your mother.” In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson named Mother’s Day an official holiday. Looking for the perfect way to tell your own mom that she’s amazing? Check out these 29 quotes about motherhood.