Henderson County, Kentucky Personalities

Mary Towles Sasseen


Was Originator of Mother's Day, According to Local History - Labor Unions to Seek Fund for Memorial

By Lucille Moss

Henderson, KY., Sept. 1 - (special) - At the convention of the State Federation of Labor in Frankfort, Kentucky, September 10, a resolution will be introduced by Herbert W. Moss, secretary of the local Central Labor Union, and delegate to the convention from this city to the effect that a movement be started for the erection of a memorial to the memory of Miss Mary Towles Sasseen, founder of Mother's Day in this country. The resolution will call for the appointment of a committee by the president of the State Federation of Labor, to be known as the "Mother's Day memorial committee" to be composed of representatives of all walks of life. The Kentucky State Federation of Labor will be instructed to offer this resolution to the American Federation of Labor for their endorsement and co-operation at their coming convention in Portland, Oregon, this month.

This movement will be under the auspices of the Kentucky State Federation of Labor. All fraternal organizations will be asked to co-operate, from all over the country, as the movement will be nationwide, and will have the support of all people, because Miss Mary Sasseen, thinking of no honor to herself, began to teach the children of our country to honor their mothers.

In 1893 Miss Mary Towles Sasseen, born and reared in Henderson, Kentucky, and long a teacher in our schools, labored earnestly to have April 20, her mother's natal day, observed in the schools in the manner in which we now celebrate. In that year she published a pamphlet setting forth her ideas, aims and objects and had the book copyrighted.

Miss Sasseen came of a line of altruists, always interested in the welfare of others. Her great-grandfather, Judge Thomas Towles, a Virginian, was a pioneer in education in Kentucky. At his plantation, he kept a tutor, to whom the children of the neighborhoods were free to come, so anxious was he that they should have the learning for which he was so well known. Her grandfather, well known throughout Kentucky for his wit and intelligence, was one of the most distinguished lawyers, said never to have lost a case. Mary Towles Sasseen inherited their ready wit, their altruism, but added to these her mother heart and womanly thought and sought to instill in the child the valuation of motherhood, which she herself had for all, and particularly for her own mother, whose full name she bore, Mary Towles Sasseen.

She noticed that the mother had no voice in the education of her child, she had no vote; the child at that time belonged more to the father than to the mother who bore it. It seemed to her that it would be well to begin at the school and with the tiniest child and teach it to honor as well as to love its mother. And so she originated Mother's Day for the schools of the nation, beginning at her own Center Street School in Henderson. She secured the observance of this day in all of the schools of this city, then, in neighboring towns and in other schools. The day was recognized by the National Education Association.

It is popularly believed that Miss Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia is entitled to the credit of originating the idea of Mother's Day, but while Miss Jarvis is entitled to a great credit in connection with the national observance of the day, the idea was conceived long before the time credited to Miss Jarvis. In 1907 Miss Jarvis secured through Senator Heflin of Alabama a resolution from the United States Senate advising the observance of Mother's Day, and this further advertised the idea first brought out by Miss Sasseen who was one of that gradually increasing class, the mother-at-large. With no children to honor herself, she sought the good of all children of God and the honor of all mothers.

The Evansville Courier and Journal, Evansville, Indiana
Sunday, September 2, 1923

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