Mother’s Day- The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

The Origin and History of Mother’s Day

The importance of Mothers in society was recognised in the days of ancient Greece. A Festival to Cybele, a great mother of Geek gods was celebrated each year.

The Romans continued the tradition with their Festival of Matronalia, which recognised Juno, the goddess of childbirth.

Centuries before, in the Books of Kings in the Old Testament part of the Christian Bible, when a King came to the throne, his mother was acknowledged and named. The influence of the mother on the character and the type of  king he became was very clear. The mother was a good or bad influence.

In Praise of Mothers

William Ross Wallace was an American poet who is best known for writing a poem that praises “Motherhood” as the pre-eminent force for change in the world.

” The hand that rocks the cradle – Is the hand that rules the world.”

In the early Christian Church, ” Mothering Sunday “ was a regular date in the Christian calendar.

In “modern times “, a specific day was set aside in the USA after the American Civil War, when groups of mothers whose sons had fought and died on opposite sides during the War, met together. These meetings were mainly at a local level.

Who thought up Mother’s Day ?

Mother and Children

In 1868, a lady named Ann Jarvis convened a committee to set up a ” Mother’s Friendship Day”. Again this related to the American Civil War. Her dream was to see this become a national event recognising the role of all mothers. She died in 1905 without achieving this aim.

In the 1880’s and 1890’s, there were several attempts to establish a “Mother’s Day” but they did not succeed.

Ann Jarvis’  daughter Anna Marie Javis continued the crusade in trying to see her mother’s dream come true.

With the help of a Philadelphia (USA) merchant named John Wanamaker she eventually succeeded. The first “official” service was held on 10 May 1908, in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna’s mother had been a Sunday School teacher. The State of West Virginia declared an official holiday in 1910 and other States followed.

In 1912 Anna Marie Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May’ and ‘Mother’s Day’.She also created ” The Mother’s Day International Association”.

” She was specific about the place of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world “

Anna continued to promote the holiday until eventually on 8 May 1914 the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. On 9 May, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson, issued a Proclamation, declaring the first National Mother’s Day

Since then other  countries around the globe have adopted this day, although in some countries and cultures the date has been changed  to coincide with already existing celebrations honouring Motherhood.

Anna Marie Jarvis in later years  came to regret her actions and eventually finished up a major opponent  of the holiday.

Commercialisation and other forms of exploitation of Mother’s Day caused her great distress. She spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she considered to be an abuse of the Day. On one occasion in 1948 she was arrested for disturbing the peace while protesting.

Flowers, particularly Carnations , have always played a prominent role on Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis delivered  500 Carnations to be worn at that first celebration in 1908. She chose Carnations, because that was her Mother’s favourite flower. Later florists promoted the wearing of a red carnation if your mother was living  or white if your mother was dead. I remember, as a boy,  that white chrysanthemums were the favourite, because carnations are not in season in the southern hemisphere in May.

The links below will direct you to some books about the Mothers of famous men who have helped changed the world for the better and the influence these mothers had on their lives.

1030188: Susanna Wesley: The Mother of John & Charles Wesley Susanna Wesley: The Mother of John & Charles WesleyBy Arnold Dallimore / Baker An intelligent, strong-willed woman, Susanna Wesley suffered much in a male-dominated world while she prepared her children to succeed in it. Her fiery, independent spirit is evident as Arnold Dallimore sets the mother of Methodism within her culture and time in England. Though Sameul Wesley figures prominently in his wife’s story, as do John, Charles, and the other children, the story remains fixed on Susanna. Excerpts from Susanna Wesley’s letters and writings of her husband and children are included along with illustrations of furniture, paintings, and other items used by the Wesleys.
740120: Mothers of Famous Men Mothers of Famous MenBy Archer Wallace / Lamplighter Publishing What man on earth has not been deeply influenced by his mother? Mothers of Famous Men gives us a glimpse into the lives of remarkable women whose immeasurable love and outstanding influence helped shape their sons into the men of honour and character that they became. The mothers of George Washington, Andrew Carnegie, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln are just a few of the stellar women that will inspire you by their godly character and compelling influence.Mothers of Famous Men is part of the Fireside Collection (which is comprised of 81 Lamplighter Publishing books that include stories that Lamplighter selected to be the best for family reading, devotions, and bedtime stories.)

It’s good to remember Your Mother on this special day but it is so easy to take all she does for granted during the rest of the year. May I suggest you  make a ” new year resolution” to express to her throughout the year your love and appreciation for all she does.

Maybe, like mine, your Mother is no longer living ; speak well of her to your children and grandchildren. Honour her memory.

No Love like a Mother’s Love

There is no love, like a mother’s love,
no stronger bond on earth…
like the precious bond that comes from God,
to a mother, when she gives birth.

A mother’s love is forever strong,
never changing for all time…
and when her children need her most,
a mother’s love will shine.

God bless these special mothers,
God bless them every one…
for all the tears and heartache,
and for the special work they’ve done.

When her days on earth are over,
a mother’s love lives on…
through many generations,
with God’s blessings on each one.

Be thankful for our mothers,
for they love with a higher love…
from the power God has given,
and the strength from up above.

by Jill Lemming**

I pray this Mother’s Day will be a very happy one for all Mothers and their children

Doctor Bill



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13 Responses to “Mother’s Day- The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.”

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  • Comment from Sarah

    Thanks Doctor Bill, i had no idea where Mothers Day originated from. Mothers are very special people, and it is very important to recognise this Day and celebrate. For some reason no matter how old you are, Mothers seem to be able to fix everything, they are very wise and make difficult situations seem a whole lot better.



  • Comment from docbill

    Thank you for the comments Belinda. You are so right in what you say. Aren’t we fortunate to have been blessed with good Mothers

    Doctor Bill

  • Comment from Jackie Stenhouse

    I always wanted to know where mothers day came from. Thanks for the interesting history. I’m with Anna Maree Jarvis and feel mothers day has become far too commercialised. We celebrate the day simply by my kids usually making me something and preparing a special meal. This does me fine.

  • Comment from BelindaO

    Thanks Doctor Bill, i had no idea where Mothers Day originated from. Mothers are very special people, and it is very important to recognise this Day and celebrate. For some reason no matter how old you are, Mothers seem to be able to fix everything, they are very wise and make difficult situations seem a whole lot better.



  • Comment from docbill

    Hello Cherie, Someone once said ” One of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their Mother “. By showing love and respect a child learns the lesson . There are more things ” caught than taught”
    You have two very handsome boys by the look of their photos. I hope you had a great day with them. Bill

  • Comment from docbill

    Thanks Elly for the comments. You obviously learned and applied many of the secrets of being a good Mother. Your reward is seeing the results . My Wife Ann has had an enjoyable day today with four of our brood of five. The other one lives interstate. We are very blessed that our children still want to come home to seen their Mother ( apparently they even like to see the “old man!”) Doctor Bill

  • Comment from docbill

    Hi Jo, Thank you again for your encouraging comments. Part of the fun and enjoyment in researching material for my Blogs is the things I learn. I have known the quote “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” for as long as I can remember but was unaware of the author or that it was the title of a poem. It fitted in so well with what I was trying to convey.
    I was fortunate to have a good mother, I am married to a good mother and I am as a grandfather enjoying watching my daughters fulfil that role. They deserve all the praise and honour they can get . Bill

  • Comment from docbill

    Thank you for the comment Jazz. As you may realise I have seen all sorts in my 50 year career.

  • Comment from Jazz Salinger

    Hi Dr Bill,

    This is such a beautiful post. Mother’s do have great influence over the people their children become. So, too do fathers.

    I wish that we would all learn to love and appreciate them just a little more while they’re here.

    Thank-you for writing such a beautifully moving post.

  • Comment from Jo Carey-Bradshaw

    Thank you for this post today, Dr Bill,

    I haven’t seen the first ‘Hand that Rocks the Cradle’ for more years than I care to remember. This was a great favourite of my grandmother and her sister. You have written this post really beautifully, and I hear the deep honour you confer on mothers.

    Thank you for the respect you show all mothers with this touching, and lovely article.

  • Comment from Elly Wilson

    I love the poem and I know that being a mother is the most important job in the world. I did not have a good role model growing up so I had to learn to be a mother to myself first and learn to nurture myself. I made a vow to never smack my children and learnt how to discipline lovingly, even though people around me saw me as “soft”. It was not the easy road at times as I had no support to fall back on but I could never cause any violence of any sort on anyone, especially my beautiful children. How can you teach your children not to be violent if you treat them with violence? My way paid off. Today I have 2 really well balanced beautiful and creative children (25 & 17). They are strong , have high self esteem, are respectful to others and speak their minds when necessary. Most of all, they trust me with all their heart because they know that whatever happens in life, my door is always open, the light always on and my arms are out to embrace them. I am honoured to be their mother

  • Comment from Cherie Rasmussen

    Hi Dr Bill

    Thank you for your article in respecting and celebrating Mother’s Day. Parenting is a very special role and one to be cherished. Mother’s come in many forms including the male gender too sometimes.

    After having the pleasure of attending a conference with Dr John Demartini, my biggest learning was that the family core will always come into balance. Someone will always step into the roles that are needed in a family, whether it be friend or blood relative.

    I am a Mum and have more understanding of my own mother from this. The role as a Mum is one that I truly love and it is an honour.

    Thank you Dr Bill for your wonderful article.

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