In the United States, Mother's Day was originally conceived by social activist Julia Ward Howe during the American Civil War with a call to unite women against war. She wrote the Mother's Day Proclamation. In the United States, the day now simply celebrates motherhood and thanking mothers.
Julia Ward Howe'a idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.
Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, would, of course, have known of her mother's work, and the work of Howe. Much later, when her mother died, this second Anna Jarvis started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908, in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. Grafton is the home to the International Mother's Day Shrine. From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. The holiday was declared officially by somes states beginning in 1912. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day. Nine years after the first official Mother's Day holiday, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. holidays.
To us Mothers day is about Mom having a nice relaxing day after we pound the concept through our kids skulls.