A brief history of Mother's Day

Today is a special day to recognise and celebrate the women who raised us. Many countries around the world, including New Zealand, have adopted the Mother's Day celebration based on the North American origin of the holiday, with roots in the American civil war.

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There are two histories associated with the origin of celebrating mothers, despite occurring several decades apart, both were in response to conditions resulting from war. The origin of Mother's day stemmed as a anti-war movement, and its reason for existence was commemorative rather than celebratory.

Social activist Julia Ward Howe arranged special services and rallies for women to unite against war, in 1870 she wrote a proclamation and tried to get formal recognition for a Mother's Day of Peace. At the same time, Ann Reeves Jarvis was also involved in the women's movement attempting to improve sanitation conditions for women and lower infant mortality by fighting disease during the US Civil War from 1861-1865.

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It was the actions of Ann's daughter, Anna, who several years later organised a special church service on 10 May 1908, to mark the third anniversary of her own mother's death. The intention of the service was to honour all mothers, both those who were living and those who had passed away.

It remained very popular over the years and evolved into an annual celebration - Anna campaigned to make the day a national holiday. In 1914 it was official, the second Sunday in May - Mother's Day.

Author: Karen