You may think it was all started by Hallmark in an effort to sell cards, but that's not the case at all. Mother's Day dates back to the ancient Romans and made its way to the United States in the early 1900's, finally becoming a national holiday in 1914.
The earliest tributes to Mother's Day date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Christians celebrated a Mother's Day of sorts during a festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of Mary, mother of Christ. In England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers. It was then called Mothering Sunday.
In the United States it started with one woman named Anna Jarvis. Jarvis was an Appalachian homemaker and she organized a day to raise the awareness of poor health conditions of her community. She thought the day would be best advocated by mothers and called the day "Mother's Work Day".
When Anna Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter, also named Anna, began a campaign to memorialize the life work of her mother. Anna remembered that her mother said there were many days dedicated to men but none to mothers. Anna then began to lobby the politicians of the time to support a day dedicated to mothers. Anna Jarvis talked to many politicians including Presidents Taft and Roosevelt hoping they would support her campaign.
Jarvis organized a church service to celebrate her mother in 1908, and Anna handed out white carnations to those in attendance because the white carnation was her mother's favorite flower. Anna Jarvis' hard work began to pay off five years after that service in 1913. The House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for officials of the federal government to wear white carnations on the day many began calling Mother's Day, the second Sunday in May.
Finally on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.
"Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite 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."
That was the first official Mother's Day and the tradition carries on to this day. In fact, Mother's Day has flourished in the United States. The second Sunday in May has become the most popular day of the year to dine out, and telephone lines record their highest traffic, as sons and daughters everywhere take advantage of this day to honor and to express appreciation of their mothers.