For the mum in question was historically the ‘mother church’ and not the matriarch. In the 16th century, returning to your home or ‘mother’ church, was an important annual occasion. Each year, children who left home at a young age to work as domestic servants or apprentices were allowed a day off in the middle of lent for this very reason. The trip home evolved into a chance for a rare family reunion and cakes were baked and flowers bought in honour of the occasion.
The modern version of Mother’s Day took root in the US in 1914 when Anna Jarvis formed a campaign to celebrate motherhood, following the death of her own mother. In the UK, the evolution of the religious holiday was largely attributed to Constance Smith, daughter of an Anglican clergyman living in Nottingham. She was inspired by Jarvis to publish a pamphlet on The Revival of Mothering Sunday, coinciding with WWI when many mothers lost their sons.
According to the Royal Mail, it was about this time that the widespread practice of giving Mother’s Day cards began – although there are examples from earlier times as our photo below, courtesy of the Postal Museum, shows.
One verse from that time, which is on display in the museum, reads: “Dearest one, who gave me birth, And sweetest love doth always show, Bright be thy pathway upon earth, A stranger here to woe. May every day with roseate hue Yield all its stores of sweets for you.”