Oh – so you thought Woodrow Wilson was responsible for Mother’s Day? Well, he might have made it a national ‘holiday’ in 1914, but that was not the beginning of Mother’s Day. The American version of Mother’s Day has its roots in Michigan. In the Calhoun County town of Albion, to be exact.

The first one to come up with the idea of honoring moms was Julia Ward Howe in 1872. Howe, who had written the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, thought it was a peaceful, loving way to help ease the horrors of Civil War memories. But nothing happened.

Five years went by and in 1877 Albion resident Juliet Calhoun Blakeley became responsible for the very first observance of a “Mother’s Day” in the United States.

It took place unexpectedly on her birthday, which happened to fall on the second Sunday of May. The Friday before her birthday, three boys were discovered totally drunk, roaming the streets. One of the boys was the son of the town’s Methodist church minister. During that Sunday’s service, the pastor was so upset and embarrassed over his son’s public drunkenness that he abruptly left during the service. Mrs. Blakeley got up from her seat and decided to finish the service for him. Her grown sons were so proud of their mother that they promised to come to town and visit her every year on her birthday. The boys also coaxed their Albion business associates and friends to do the same for their mothers, every second Sunday in May.

The idea snowballed, and the church from then on celebrated the second Sunday of May as the annual day to pay tribute to all moms.

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Located in Albion’s Reiger Park is an historical marker, making mention of this Mother’s Day milestone. Mrs. Blakeley was able to enjoy many years of Mother’s Days, finally passing away 43 years later in 1920 at the age of 102.

In 1908 word of this had reached Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, who had the intent of making Mother’s Day a nationally recognized holiday. She needed a way to honor her own mother who had died three years earlier. She organized her own Mother's Day celebration the second Sunday in May 1908, and had services in Philadelphia and Grafton, West Virginia. She was so impressed at the success of her services that she pushed to make the day an annual event throughout the country. Through her efforts, West Virginia became the first complete state to annually celebrate Mother's Day, starting in 1910. By 1911, almost every state followed, and in 1914, President Wilson made it official.

And it all began in 1877 when a middle-aged, pioneer mom from Albion, Michigan saved a church service.

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