Henderson County, Kentucky Personalities

Mary Towles Sasseen

Letter From Phelps Sasseen 1923

Belton Hotel
Mrs. Phelps Sasseen, Prop.
Belton, South Carolina
Dec. 31, 1923

Dear Cousin Sue:

I have started to write you repeatedly, but, because I felt that I was so totally unfit to do what you naturally supposed that I could do, that each time I gave it up.

However, I want you and all the others - particularly Mr. Moss to know that I appreciate your efforts to gain the recognition for sister Mamie that is her just due; but, which appears difficult of attainment.

My wife, through error, thought that Dr. Johnson, President of Winthrept College at Rock Hill SC remembered sister Mamie and her efforts to establish "Mother's Day", but she was mistaken; I had one talk with him at Columbia and he was in a great hurry to get to an appointment, and asked me to see him again at his home at Rock Hill, but, each time that I have gone there to see him, he has either been in Europe or Battlecreek, Mich. Seeking better health.

The theory on which I have been at work in this matter is that some teacher who attended some meeting of the National Teachers Association, which met every other year, would remember sister Mamie's efforts. I have heard some one say at some time that at the time sister Mamie was working on this movement, that the National Teachers Association had no paid Secretary nor any permanent place of business, and that the records were kept in the home of the then secretary; and as there is no record that we have been able to locate of the many times that she addressed this association of teachers, it is presumed that the home of the secretary must have burned and the records of the association up to that point were burned; so, that is why it is necessary to locate some one or more teachers who attended these meetings - particularly those of Denver, Colo., Asbury Park, N.J. and at Chautauqua, N.Y.

I have one or two newspapers, published at Henderson, Madisonville, Ky and Springfield, Ohio, which mentioned sister Mamie as a claimant of the honor of originating Mothers Day; one from Madisonville gives a signed statement from Prof. Glenn, stating that he knew sister Mamie was the originator of Mothers Day.

I am not sure but I think that the schools of Springfield, Ohio held some sort of Mothers Day celebration at some time prior to 1907, so, if we can ever get Miss Jarvis to go on record as to what time she started her work and we can establish the fact that sister Mamie had done work along the same lines prior to that date, that should be the very best of evidence that she (sister Mamie) was first in her efforts.

I enclose the last and only card that Sister Mamie used in her campaign for Supt. Of Public Schools of the state of Kentucky, which was in the summer of 1899 - the same year that Goebel ran for Governor, so this is another piece of evidence that Sister Mamie was ahead of this Jarvis woman - IF we can ever get her to go on record as to when she first started this movement.

We have one copy of Sister Mamies pamphlet, but as we have recently moved here and opened this hotel I am unable at this particular moment, to locate it or the newspapers containing the reports mentioned, but we will get them and forward them to you. I enclose a letter from Irvin Cobb, in answer to a letter that Grace wrote him recently, in an effort to learn if he could help establish the authorship of Mothers Day.

Please save all these papers, etc. and if we can do anything further, please command us.

I wish to assure you again that we all appreciate the efforts you and Mr. Moss and all others are making to establish the fact that Sister Mamie was the real author of the idea of Mothers Day, and I sincerely hope that the day is not far distant that the country at large will know this and acknowledge it.

With lots and lots of love for each of you, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year, I am

Your cousin,

Signed…. Phelps Sasseen

We have the newspaper electrotype from which this likeness of Sister Mamie was made.

Letter from Phelps Sasseen, brother to Mary Towles Sasseen written to Susan Towles, found in the Society family files.

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