Mother’s Day became a legal public holiday in USA in 1914, largely as the result of the efforts of Miss Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, USA. On May 8 of that year President Wilson approved a joint resolution of Congress providing that “the second Sunday in May shall hereafter be designated and known as Mother’s Day.” This resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama upon the request of Miss Jarvis. The following day the President complied with a further provision of the resolution by issuing the first annual proclamation directing “Government officials to display the United States flag on all Government buildings” and inviting “the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” The idea of a public holiday in tribute to motherhood was conceived by Miss Jarvis in 1908, three years after the death of her own mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis. Miss Jarvis adopted the second Sunday in May because it fell nearest the anniversary of her mother’s birth. It was also Miss Jarvis who suggested the wearing of the white carnation on Mother’s Day. “This flower was chosen,” she said, “because it typifies the beauty, truth and fidelity of mother love.”
Later usage introduced the practice, quite common, of wearing a white carnation in memory of a deceased mother and a red one in tribute to a living mother. Miss Jarvis promoted her plan for a national Mother’s Day through the Mother’s Day International Association, which she organized. It should not be supposed that the idea of a mother’s day was original with her. Before 1890 Miss Mary Towles Sasseen of Kentucky suggested such an observance to the teachers of her State. She suggested April 20, the anniversary of her mother’s birth, or the Sunday nearest that date.
In 1902 Frank E. Hering, of South Bend, Indiana, began to agitate for a national mother’s day through the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The Universalist Church of Our Father in Baltimore, USA has held an annual service for motherhood since 1892. On May 22 of that year the death of Mrs. Emily C. Pullman, the mother of the pastor and of George M. Pullman, inventor of the Pullman sleeping car, was announced, and Robert K. Cummins, superintendent of the Sunday-school, suggested that the service be made a memorial one for her. Later he proposed that the service be held each year, not in memory of Mrs. Pullman in particular, but in tribute to mothers in general. For many years the Sunday nearest May 22 was observed, but after Congress designated a different date the local service was changed to conform to it. A question has been raised as to the correct form of the name of this holiday. Mother’s Day, with the singular possessive of mother, is the accepted form. It is employed in the act of Congress and the executive proclamations, as well as in the name of the Mother’s Day International Association. Some authorities, usage notwithstanding, think that the plural possessive, Mothers’ Day, would be more accurate.