Henderson County, Kentucky Personalities

Mary Towles Sasseen



By Miss Pauline Breckenridge.

The credit for formulating the "Mother's Day" idea is due to Mrs. Mary Towles Sasseen Wilson, who was a sister of Mrs. John L. Cross and was at one time a resident of this city.

The Springfield (O.) Daily News publishes an article from the pen of Miss Pauline Breckenridge telling of Mrs. Wilson's origination of the idea and of this beautiful custom which is now so extensively observed. The article will be of great interest to the near relatives of the late Mrs. Wilson in this city. It is copied in full, as follows:


"When today, over the entire city, tribute and homage is being paid to mothers, and the white flower of purity and love which is the symbol of the mother is being worn by men and women who honor the mother of their childhood and youth, an especial tribute should be paid to Mary Towles Sasseen Wilson, to whom may be given the credit of being the originator of Mother's Day.

"Carey Boggess, superintendent of the public schools, who was intimately acquainted with Mrs. Wilson during his first term of office as head of the public schools, is the authority for the following statement, made to a member of the family of Mrs. E. W. Olds, of 126 Pleasant Street, who is a sister of the noble woman who advocated Mother's Day: 'So far as I have been able to learn, Mary Towles Sasseen was the originator of Mother's Day.'

"Mrs. Wilson, who has been dead more than six years, was born and reared in Henderson, Ky., and for the greater part of her life was a teacher in the schools of that city. Frequently she visited her sister in Springfield, and she was well known to many prominent men and women in this city. Her personality was unusually interesting and her genial, pleasant manner was the instrument for making for herself readily a large number of friends. She was devoted to her vocation, and was happiest when at her work in the school room in the South.


"Mary Towles Sasseen, as she is best known in Springfield, where she visited most often before her marriage, conceived the idea of Mother's Day during her teaching in Henderson. She worked unceasingly and addressed national educational conferences in an effort to have a day set apart in the public schools for the observance of this day.

"Her devotion to her own mother undoubtedly accounts for her heart interest in the project, and in a book entitled 'Mother's Day Celebration," she dedicated it to her mother in the hope that April 20, her birthday, be annually celebrated as Mother's Day.

"This book was published in 1893 and contains a collection of programs suitable for the celebration of Mother's Day.

"So thoroughly did she become enthused with the idea of a national observance of a Mother's Day that Mrs. Wilson would travel at her own expense to educational gatherings to address them on this subject nearest her heart. In 1906 she addressed a national conference at Sundusky, and on another occasion she spoke to a conference at Asbury Park in New Jersey, and still another time she was present at a gathering in Colorado Springs, where she interested many on the subject. Mrs. Wilson was one of those women who do things, and make them selves felt in the community. She ran for superintendent of the county schools in her hometown, being on the independent ticket, which was not well supported. She was not elected, but in the South it takes a woman of unusual ability and moral courage and conviction to stand out and above the rest of her sex. She also ran for superintendent of public instruction, and was in fact greatly interested in all public affairs.


"It was about 1894 that Mrs. Wilson interested Superintendent Boggess and many of the teachers of Springfield in the idea of a general recognition of Mother's Day in the public schools. She had several interviews with Mr. Boggess, who became thoroughly aroused to the great good and the need of such an observance in the schools, and during his term of office this day was generally celebrated. After his office had transpired, however, the new superintendent did not continue the custom, and gradually the movement died out.

"In the South the influence of this good woman's devoted efforts were felt more strongly because of Here she met Judge Wilson, and schools of the vicinity where she lived, a day to pay a royal tribute to mothers will never die out - it never can while the fragrance of the beautiful sentiments and thoughts painted by Mary Towles Sasseen Wilson lingers. It is to be hoped that the efforts of a woman like Miss Ferris, of Philadelphia, who has shaken up the embers of enthusiasm in the Mother Day movement started by Mrs. Wilson, will burn brightly. Although Mrs. Wilson originated the movement, Miss Ferris, who traveled much in the Southland, and who, so it is believed; got her idea from the seeds sown by the founder of this day, deserves unbounded credit for keeping alive and renewing interest in its observance, which is becoming national.

"Mrs. Wilson was married to Judge William Marshall Wilson in Pensacola, Floa., Sept. 28, 1904. She had gone to florida for her health, and had taken a homestead ranch. Here she met Judge Wilson, and later they were married. Eighteen months following her marriage Mrs. Wilson died. A coincidence connected with her death was the fact that it occurred on the day of the San Francisco earthquake.

"Perhaps one of the greatest joys that could come to any woman would have been felt by Mary Towles Sasseen Wilson today were she alive and could see that the project, mothered and fostered by herself through many years in the South, has grown and expanded until it has covered nearly the whole breadth of the United States. She, the originator of Mother's Day, hallowed it when she herself became a mother - a privilege which she considered the most sacred in the world.

"A poem from her book, 'A Mother's Love,' is most appropriately quoted here:

"A mother's love! Oh, soft and low,
As the tremulous notes of the dove's low call,
On the weary heart those accent fall!

A mother's love! The sacred thought
Unseals the hidden fount of tears
As if the frozen waters caught
The purple light of earlier years.

A mother's love - Oh, 'tis the dew
Which nourisheth life's drooping flowers,
And fitteth them to bloom anew
'Mid fairer scenes - in brighter bowers."

The Daily News, Springfield, Ohio, April 1912

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2003, HCH&GS