Mother's Day
seen through Postage Stamps 

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The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honour of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods.  The stamp is very small, only 15 x 20 mm, and is shown here largely oversized. 

In the United States Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) as a day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston, Mass.,  every year. 

  • Crete 1905.  Rhea is depicted on this Cretan stamp (Scott # 74 -- Michel # 19).  The motif is taken from a ring used as a seal, and found in Knossos, the Mycenaean center at Crete.

It was, however, Mrs. Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis' work with women's organizations that inspired the creation of Mother's Day as a national holiday.  She was born in Culpeper, Virginia, on September 30, 1832, the daughter of the Rev. Josiah W. and Nancy Kemper Reeves. 

The family moved to Barbour County in present-day West Virginia when the Rev. Reeves was transferred to a Methodist church in Philippi. In 1852, Anna married Granville E. Jarvis, the son of a Philippi Baptist minister. Two years later, Granville and Anna Jarvis moved to nearby Webster in Taylor County. 

In 1934 appeared this postage stamp, adapted from the portrait by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) of his mother.   The painting was made during the period 1867-72, and measures 144 x 162 cm.  It belongs to Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.  

  • USA 1934.  First Day Cover, cancelled on May 2m 1934 in Washington D.C., honouring "Mothers of America".  Scott # 737.  The cachet shows the artist's mother, and beneath the cachet is printed a short review of the story of Mother's Day. 

  • Fujeira 1967. "The Artist's Mother" by J.A.M. Whistler. Note that the stamp is mirrored as opposed to the original painting on the US-stamp. The same painting was issued on a stamp by Jordan in 1974 (Scott # 779, Michel # 917). 
  • USA 1934. "The Artist's Mother". on the original US-stamp. The stamp is shown largely oversized. 
In 1907 Anna Maria's daughter, Anna Jarvis, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. 

Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.  

Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. 

It was successful as by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state.

In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson (president 1913-1921) made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. 
  • USA 1938.  President Woodrow Wilson.  Scott # 832.
  • USA 1926.  President Woodrow Wilson.  Scott # 623.

Both scans by courtesy of Mr. Bob Ingraham (Canada).

  • USA 1987.  The United States issued a booklet of eight stamps for Special Occasions, one of which was a greeting stamp for Mother's Day.  

While many countries of the world celebrate their own Mother's Day at different times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium which also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.   

A large number of stamps, dedicated to Mother's Day as such, have been issued world wide, among others these quite nice Cuban floral arrangements.  

  • Cuba 1987:  Flower Baskets particularly for Mother's Day.    

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Revised 05 jun 2007 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
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