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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Mother's Day

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

Mary Towles Sasseen: A Mother’s Devotee

As Mother’s Day approaches, minds around the United States turn to thoughts of family, reminiscences of childhood, and the love that only Mom can give. A little-known fact, though, is that celebration of the holiday in the United States originated right here in Henderson, Kentucky. Though there have been others recognized in the foundation of the holiday, it was through the efforts of Henderson teacher Mary Towles Sasseen that Mother’s Day became nationally sanctioned.

In 1887, Mary Sasseen chose April 20th, her own mother’s birthday, to publically honor the woman most important in her life, beginning a campaign to set aside every April 20th as a national holiday celebrating mothers. Though her plan failed to come to fruition in her lifetime, Annie Jarvis continued Miss Sasseen’s work until, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared a national holiday commemorating mothers to be observed on the second Sunday in May annually. In 2004, Sasseen earned long-deserved acknowledgement in the Congressional Record as the founder of Mother’s Day.

It was fond remembrances of her mother which inspired Miss Sasseen when she penned these words:

Mother! Fondest, sweetest word.
On the lips of mortals heard.
Teacher wise of childhood ways,
Helping hand in older days,
Ever flowing fount of joy.
Rich in love, without alloy.
Self-sacrifice is her daily theme,

Devoted love her nightly dream.
All adore her whose dear face
Years can never rob of grace.

In 1904, Mary married Judge William Marshall Wilson, and they moved to Freeport, Florida, where she died in 1906 of complications in childbirth.

Photo is of Mary Towles Sasseen.

Want to learn more about the origins of Mother’s Day? Come visit us in the archives at the library! You can also check out our genealogy page or read more “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

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