A Mother’s Day Portrait

DKW_37067_Barnes_LWith this Sunday the 6th March being Mother’s Day in the UK, it seemed like a opportune moment to showcase some of the beautiful mother and child portraits we have in the Knights-Whittome glass plate collection. Captured between approximately 1905-1917, these images capture a unique moment in history for British women. Caught between the restricted Victorian world of their mothers and grandmothers, and the brave new world opened up by the pressures and opportunities of war time and the Suffrage movement, these mothers found themselves in a unique position.

Portraits of women after around 1910 are visibly more relaxed that earlier images often featuring less formalised poses and with reassured direct eye contact and/or smiles.  These beautiful images of motherhood, presumably taken as a personal record or for distribution among family also exude a sense of warmth and love which is timeless.  We hope you enjoy looking at them as much as we have enjoyed recapturing the images.

The History of Mother’s Day

Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name.

” The modern American holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when a woman called Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia… Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her own beloved mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Anna’s mission was to honor her own mother by continuing work she started and to set aside a day to honor… “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.” Wikipedia

Historically, in England, it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church  – the main church or cathedral in the area – once a year. This ritual took place on the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Inevitably this tradition became an occasion for family reunions.  Children and young people “in service” were traditionally given a day off on that date so they could visit their families. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis’s efforts in the United States, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival; Constance was the daughter of the vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, and there is a memorial in Coddington’s church. UK-based merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and relentlessly promoted it in the UK; by the 1950s, it was celebrated across all the UK.

People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mother’s Day on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent. The two celebrations are commonly mixed up, and many people think that they are the same thing. Today it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and home-made cards to their mothers.

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mother poem

Mother, a poem by Warren E Comstock, 1910

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia

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3 thoughts on “A Mother’s Day Portrait

  1. Pingback: 8 MAY 1908 INTERNATIONAL MOTHER`S DAY SHRINE | his1blog

  2. Pingback: Happy Father’s Day, 19th June | The Past on Glass

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