The Origins of Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. Did you call your mother? Do you wonder when and by whom the Mother’s Day celebrations started?

Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. In the United States, Mother’s Day 2020 occurs on Sunday, May 10. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards and other gifts.


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Manahatta to Manhattan

Here’s a great reading booklet from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian about the first New Yorkers

The Lenape, Manhattan’s original inhabitants,  called the island Manahatta, which means “hilly island.”

Rich with natural resources, Manahatta had an abundance of fruits, nuts, birds, and animals. Fish and shellfish were plentiful and the ocean was full of seals, whales, and dolphins. Migrant birds flew to local marshes based on the available food supply or weather conditions.

The body of water off the coast of Lower Manhattan is an estuary, a place where saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with freshwater from the Hudson River. Estuaries are particularly good places for wildlife to live.

The Lenape called the Hudson River Shatemuc, meaning “the river that flows both ways,” because the river alternates its flow from north to south along with the Atlantic tides. Shatemuc was an important water route for the Lenape who traded with other Native people living in villages along its banks.

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Before Columbus

Most people believe Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach America. They’re wrong! Here’s an article from which explains:

Nearly 500 years before the birth of Christopher Columbus, a band of European sailors left their homeland behind in search of a new world. Their high-prowed Viking ship sliced through the cobalt waters of the Atlantic Ocean as winds billowed the boat’s enormous single sail. After traversing unfamiliar waters, the Norsemen aboard the wooden ship spied a new land, dropped anchor and went ashore. Half a millennium before Columbus “discovered” America, those Viking feet may have been the first European ones to ever have touched North American soil.

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Get to Know U.S.

For those of you who are new to our program, here’s a short history of our organization. After you finish reading, take the quiz to test your comprehension!

University Settlement, 1899

Stanton Coit












A Short History of University Settlement

The settlement movement was a social movement beginning in the 1880s with the goal of helping poor people. It started in London, England, and its main object was the establishment of “settlement houses” in poor urban areas. These houses offered food, shelter, and education.

The first settlement house in the United States was University Settlement Society of New York, founded in 1886 by Stanton Coit. It is located at 184 Eldridge Street on New York’s Lower East Side. It provides many services for the mostly immigrant population of the neighborhood.

In 1886, on the Lower East Side, more than 3,000 people lived in a single square block. The tenement buildings of the area normally had four apartments on each floor; a typical apartment had one small room that might house a family of five or more.

Immigrants not only lived in bad conditions, but worked in bad conditions as well. Most of them worked in the garment industry. Working for very low wages in crowded, uncomfortable, dangerous sweatshops, they produced half of the clothing sold in the United States.

When it first began, University Settlement served as a home for immigrants who arrived in the United States. It provided courses for new immigrants on everything from politics to the English language to basketball. The University Settlement House also included a library, kindergarten, and bath house.

During his presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt described University Settlement as “a landmark in the social history of the nation.” His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, volunteered at University Settlement when she was a young woman. She began her work as a teacher of dance and calisthenics, a way to use physical exercise and movement to improve health after long hours of work in a confined space.

University Settlement continues to provide support services to residents of the Lower East Side, and now offers programs in 21 locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Programs serve New Yorkers of all ages and include child care, pre-school, housing assistance, mental health services, college and career preparation, crisis intervention, activities for seniors, arts events, English classes, after-school programs, and summer camps.

To visit the official University Settlement website, click here.

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