By Anne L. Foster

Today, the sidewalks of Prescott will be crowded with corsage-pinned moms happily surrounded by grateful children and gleeful grandchildren.  Mother might receive a special meal, a mailbox full of cards, and maybe even some jewelry.  Perhaps it will be a picnic at Lynx Lake or a stroll through the Plaza's craft show.  Whatever it is, it's sure to be special and to be accompanied by a lot of hugs and kisses.  Today, Prescottonians will go all out for their moms.  It didn't used to be that way.  Prescott was slow to adopt the Mother's Day celebration. 

The tradition stems from an old English custom called Mothering Sunday.  Originally, the term referred to the practice of the religious faithful returning to the mother church where they had been baptized.  The first modern Mother's Day observances are said to have been in Philadelphia churches on May 10, 1908 . By 1913, the idea had caught on in many places and the United States Congress issued a resolution in support of the celebration.  Mother's Day, to be celebrated the second Sunday in May, was first proclaimed a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. 

In Prescott, the Journal-Miner newspaper carried a one-sentence announcement of the presidential proclamation but little interest seems to have been aroused.  The following few years see no mention at all of the holiday.  The newspaper headlines are filled with news of the Lusitania and the Great War in Europe.  Perhaps the somber mood and escalating fear of war kept attention elsewhere. 

The reality of war changed Prescott's opinion, however.  In 1919, the West Gurley Street Methodist Church held a special Mother's Day service: 

"The time has come when Mother's Day should mean something more than a beautiful sentiment.  Those who have worn the white flower in memory of the mothers, who are no longer with them, should, to-day, think of the mothers all over the world who are wearing the red flower of COURAGE, and have bravely given their sons 'that democracy may live and not perish from the earth.'" 

With the end of the war and the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, Prescottonians celebrated Mother's Day with more exuberance.  The holiday now became the time for children to showcase their love and devotion--not to mention the talents that were the joy of every proud parent!  The 1920 observance, held at the Blue Triangle on North Marina (a meeting hall despite the saloon-like name), included "a sextet from St. Joseph's Academy, the High School Glee club, and other features of merit."  The press release also graciously noted that "fathers as well as mothers will be made welcome; refreshments will be served, and a welcome in the spirit of the day is extended to all." 

By 1921, a variety of entertainments were offered to suit every taste.  The Prescott Luncheon club heard Howard Cornick lead a discussion of the national holiday.  At the Congregational Church, Dr. W. H. B. Urch spoke fondly of his memories as a member of the Mother''s Day Society and as pastor to Mrs. Juliette Blakesly, founder of the modern celebration.  The Blue Triangle was again host to a children's program, this time sponsored by the YWCA's Girl Reserves.  The show, "at which an effort will be made to have all mothers present," showcased Frances Hicks and Sallie Hall in readings as well as several vocal, piano and saxophone solos. 

The next year, a full-scale mother-daughter banquet was held.  The Journal-Miner reported, "Behind the observance of Mother's Day" by the Girl Reserves, it is felt, is a realization of the growing need of mutual understanding, sympathy and appreciation between mothers and daughters. 

Not to be outdone, Prescott poet Frank J. Scully added a son's perspective with the last stanza of his 1921 poem "To Mother": 

"Thread your needle! That would I gladly do, 
For are you not the queen of all the land? 
And, Mother, while returning it to you, 
May I not kiss your royal, wrinkled hand?" 

Clearly, it was not a lack of love that sled Prescott's adoption of the holiday.  Once begun, the celebration spread rapidly.  So maybe it's not a long tradition; it is the most heart-felt.  And that's what today's moms appreciate most. 

Anne Foster is an Archival Fellow at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She was formerly the Assistant Archivist at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (po155p). Reuse only by permission.
While still living at Orchard Ranch Sharlot Hall's mother Adeline died in 1912 perhaps shortly after this photo was taken.  It was two years after her mother's death that President Wilson declared a national holiday in honor of all mothers.  Yavapai County was slow to accept this new "holiday."