Mother's Day in the United States has two roots, both of them deep in social consciousness. One beginning is honoring Anna Marie Reeves, who came to West Virginia with her Methodist minister father in 1843. At the age of 17, she married Granville Jarvis, the son of a Baptist minister. They eventually ran a store in Webster, Taylor County. Together, they had eleven children, though only four lived to adulthood.
Mrs. Jarvis became a real leader in her community and church. She organized the women of her community into Mothers Day Work Clubs to improve child survival rates. She asked her physician brother and another local doctor to lecture the clubs. These clubs carried out tasks to improve the local health conditions, inspected by the doctors and nurses. They provided care, medicine, food and milk to indigent families. And when the Civil War arrived in town, Mrs. Jarvis persuaded the women to swear to uphold their friendships regardless of family allegiances. Together, they provided nursing to the Union and Confederate troops that camped in the area, even through a typhoid epidemic. After the war, they worked successfully to lead their community back to peaceful friendly relations. Mrs. Jarvis was a long-time church teacher and lecturer as well as a successful mother, whose daughter, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, honored her memory with a Mother's Day. See more information on Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis link, the Mother of Mother's Day.
The other root of Mother's Day is peace protests. Julia Ward Howe wrote this poem, The Mother's Day Proclamation, which is set to music and used still as a hymn in the Unitarian Universalist Church. Here it is:
Mother's Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with 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, the 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 our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough 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 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 someplace deemed most convenient
And 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.