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A Brief History of Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday

Posted on March 21, 2022 by Laura - | 0 comments

With the celebration on 27th March fast approaching, let’s take a look at where Mother’s Day all began and what it means to us now.

In modern Britain the more often, and more commercially, referred to 'Mother's Day', is the fourth Sunday of lent and was traditionally known as Mothering Sunday. It has been observed by both Christian and Roman Catholic Churches since the Middle Ages and the UK is even believed to be the first country in the world to have dedicated a day for mothers.

The associations with 'mothering' seem to originate from lectionary texts which were read during mass from as early as the 8th century. For example, it is believed that Paul the Apostle's understanding of Galatians 4:21–31 is that it is an allegory encouraging a consideration of motherhood that exceeds the material world and fertility.

In the 1600s, poorer families would reputedly send their young children to work as domestic servants for affluent families. It was widely accepted that these children should be allowed home to their families once a year, and the time settled on was the mid Sunday of Lent.

This day was known as ‘Laetare Sunday’, a day of reprieve from fasting during the season of lent, and became a time when children would be sent home to their families to attend service in their ‘Mother Church’ (the church in which their baptism was received).

After the service, children would present their mothers with flowers and specially made Simnel cakes, which could explain the common and continued practice of making of buns and cakes for the occasion, and so became a more recognisable day of observation for mothers.

The 18th century English Industrial Revolution transformed working life, which meant that working conditions and patterns changed, leading to a decline in observation of the mid-lent tradition.

However, a ‘Mothering Sunday Movement’ was instigated in Britain in 1913 by Constance Penswick Smith after she was inspired by the American newspaper article by Anna Jarvis (following a memorial service which she held for her own mother in 1907), which subsequently led to US President Woodrow Wilson introducing 'Mother's Day' to the US as a day of national observance for mothers. A tradition which is still held in the US on the second Sunday in May each year.

Penswick Smith reinvigorated the UK celebration by publishing the plays and booklets In Praise of Mother: A Story of Mothering Sunday (1913), A Short History of Mothering Sunday (1915), and The Revival of Mothering Sunday (1921). And by the 1950s her legacy had encouraged the celebration
across the UK and Commonwealth Nations, leading to the familiar day of reflection on which we all now show appreciation for our mothers and the motherly figures in our lives.

Somewhat fittingly, the month of March is also Women's History Month - a month declared to celebrating the contributions of women to history, society, and culture.

There are countless ways and areas in which women have contributed throughout history with the arts being one of them.

Some of the most influential female artists throughout history include Mary Cassat (1844 - 1926), a Pennsylvanian born Impressionist painter famous for her works centring around the subject of motherhood. In 1866, a time when women were not permitted to attend art school, Mary moved to France to study art by taking private lessons and just two years later her piece A Mandolin Player was selected for the Paris Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Georgia O'Keefe (1887 - 1986), a Midwestern American artist renowned for her depictions of oversized blooms, is reputed as a forerunner in the new American artistic movement of the time (early 1900s) Pure Abstraction.

In the 1980s, acclaimed contemporary British artist, Tracey Emin, was part of a group known as The Young British Artists (which also included Damien Hirst, famous for his formaldehyde immersed animal compositions). Her daring, provocative, and sometimes contentious works are primarily reflections of her own personal experiences and have been exhibited in the Tate Gallery and shortlisted for the Turner Prize, among many other accolades.

Tracey also became a professor at the Royal Academy in 2011, making her one of only two women ever to hold the title there since it was established in 1768!

There are a myriad more women who have helped shape art and culture throughout history and, here at Collier & Dobson, we publish the work of more than twenty talented female artists (as well almost the same number of acutely accomplished male artists, of course), including sculptors Jenna Gearing, Gill Parker, and Sophie Louise White; wildlife artists Bev Davies, Nicky Litchfield,
Dominique Salm, Bev Horsley, Aaminah Snowdon and Becky Mair; landscape artists Alena Carvalho, Jo Quigley, Nicola Wakeling, Rosa Sepple and Heather M Nisbet; narrative artists Sam Toft, Dotty Earl and Joe Ramm; equestrian artists Tabitha Salmon and Josie Appleby; abstract artist Ilse Michielsen; and still life artist Melissa Hardwick.

Head over to our online gallery to browse through the spectacular collection of sculpture, limited edition prints and original paintings from this gifted group of women...you may even find a special gift for that most treasured of women in our lives, Mum.

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