Happy Mother’s Day!

Every year I struggle with how I can show appreciation for my mom on Mother’s Day. This year I’m going retro and “making” my mom a gift by highlighting some of the National Archives holdings that relate to Mother’s Day.

Although it was celebrated in several states for years, the first time Mother’s Day became recognized as a U.S. federal holiday was on May 11, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential Proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as “Mother’s Day.”

He called for flags around the country to be flown “as a public expression of our love and reverence we have for the mothers of our country.”

President Woodrow Wilson’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, May 9, 1914. (Presidential Proclamation 1268; National Archives Identifier 299965)

During World War I, the military celebrated Mother’s Day both home and abroad.

“Naval Recruits at Newport hear sermon on ‘Mothers’ Day’ – General view of the open air services at the Newport, R. I. naval training Station,” ca. 1917–1918. (National Archives Identifier 23924339)
“Mother’s Day celebrated at American Officers’ Club in Paris,” ca. 1917–1918. (National Archives Identifier 3922355)

The year after the war ended, Assistant Secretary of the Navy—and future President—Franklin Roosevelt reminded the officers and men of the Navy and the Marine Corps to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day.

He stated, “No sacrifices during the war have been more severe or borne with more bravery and cheerfulness than the sacrifices of of the mothers of America.”

Telegram from Franklin Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, regarding Mother’s Day, 5/9/1919. (National Archives Identifier 6283187)

And later as President, Roosevelt stated that official action regarding Mother’s Day was not needed since “tributes which will be paid to mothers will come simply and spontaneously from our hearts.”

Draft of the Statement by President Franklin D. Roosevelt regarding Mother’s Day, May 7, 1935. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

During World War II, the United States used the day to promote war bonds.

Poster, “Her boys are serving US. For her sake let’s do our part. Buy a Bond for Mother’s Day,” May 10, 1942. (National Archives Identifier 534089)

Even cartoonist Clifford Berryman, who struggled with drawing women, couldn’t help but honor mothers on their special day.

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Happy Mother’s Day, mom—and to all moms!

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