What are the origins of Mother's day?

Australia: We first celebrated Mother's Day in 1924. Janet Heyden organised for local school children and businesses to donate gifts to the forgotten mothers at the Newington State Home for Women. Photo: Shutterstock.
Australia: We first celebrated Mother's Day in 1924. Janet Heyden organised for local school children and businesses to donate gifts to the forgotten mothers at the Newington State Home for Women. Photo: Shutterstock.

Australia first celebrated a Mother's Day in 1924, although we were certainly not the first country to do so.

Here, it is credited to Janet Heyden, who wanted to do something for the lonely and forgotten mothers (in the wake of World War I) whom she saw when visiting a friend who was also a patient at the Newington State Home for Women.

Janet's idea was to cheer them up by having local school children and businesses donate gifts, and the idea gained momentum with each successive year.

The celebration started earlier in the USA.

In 1870 Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, attempted to start it as an anti-war movement following the American Civil War (1861-65).

Her idea was for a Mother's Day of Peace, but the campaign didn't gain enough popularity at the time.

Starting in 1908, Anna Marie Jarvis started campaigning US Congress to add a Mother's day public holiday.

It was rejected - somewhat disrespectfully - that year, but she persisted and by 1911 all US states observed the holiday.

Then, in 1914, US president of the time Woodrow Wilson officially declared the second Sunday in May each year would be Mother's Day.

However, Jarvis later started organising boycotts of the day because she resented the commercialisation that arose in the 1920s.

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Her ideal of Mother's Day was that people would make personalised cards and write loving letters to honour their mothers.

At least she may have taken some comfort in knowing that many children do still follow her ideal today - to the best of their ability, perhaps with a little help from a teacher or another family member - by writing and decorating their own cards with a special little message just for mum.

Mothers, and motherhood, is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world.

Some have their origins in ancient history, while others only caught on in the last decade. Some follow the USA's lead for the choice of date, others are completely different times of the year.

The ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

Later, another precedent for Mother's Day is still observed in the UK in parishes of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

It was a day to visit their mother church, but is now more about honouring mothers and children.

Some of the most recent countries to observe Mother's Days are the South Sudan (since 2012), Romania (2010), Belarus (1996) and Slovakia (1993).

The earliest one each year that follows the Gregorian calendar is Norway with the second Sunday in February.

The last is December 22 in Indonesia.