Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) first suggested the national observance of an annual day honoring all mothers because she had loved her own mother so dearly. At a memorial service for her mother on May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis gave a carnation (her mother’s favorite flower) to each person who attended. Within the next few years, the idea of a day to honor mothers gained popularity, and Mother’s Day was observed in a number of large cities in the U.S.
On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclained the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established the day as a time for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” By then it had become customary to wear white carnations to honor departed mothers and red to honor the living, a custom that continues to this day.