Mother’s Day: Then and Now

Mother’s Day: Then and Now

As Mother’s Day approaches, our research team took a look at what life was like for mothers a century ago and compared our findings to what life is like for mothers today.

Times were very different 100 years ago. In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, the first US bus line began and, on May 7, 1914, Mother’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday in the United States!

Here are some interesting facts:

  • In 1914, pacifiers, wooden carriages and baby bottles were around, but mothers didn’t have the conveniences of disposable diapers or wipes.
  • One hundred years ago, over 95% of all US births took place at home. Today, home births account for less than 1% of all births.
  • In 1914, when women used the excuse that they had to stay home to wash their hair, it was probably since most women only washed their hair once a month! They used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • Today, over 90% of all women have mobile phones. Back in 1914, only about 10% of homes had a phone.
  • In 1914, the most popular cosmetics for women were small pots of rouge for coloring their cheeks.
  • Today, mothers are expected to live 30 years longer than the average life expectancy of 1910, which was 51.8 years.
  • One hundred years ago, the average age for mothers giving birth to their first child was 22. It’s now 30.

Being a mother isn’t easy, and it’s difficult to even imagine life 100 years ago without all of the modern conveniences that we have today. The biggest change for mothers over the past 100 years was new technologies, and their entry into the workforce, giving them a new sense of independence. Our own mothers, grandmothers and all the women before them were incredibly resilient women. We’re only here today because of them.

How much do you know about the women that made you who you are today?

Search now through over 5 billion historical records for more information about the lives of your grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Within just a few seconds you can search for your ancestors to learn more about your past.

Access billions of historical records on MyHeritage with coupon code MOTHERS, and get a 30% discount on an annual subscription (click on ‘Got a Discount Code’ to add the code).

Do you have any memories to share with us about your mothers or grandmothers from times gone by? Let us know in the comments below!


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  • connie

    May 11, 2014

    my grandmother was giving birth to her children underneath their olive trees then covering her baby up and putting it in a sling behind her back and going back to work those were the years in greece …i cant imagine that how difficult.

  • BettyKepka-Schultz

    May 11, 2014

    My maternal Grandmother, Anna Slavicek-Dvorak, made all of the family’s clothes, shoes, coats and hats. She arrived in the United States in 1888. I have the Conch shell that she picked up as she stepped on shore. Unfortunately, it is now damaged due to all of the moves it has taken from 1888 to the present some 126 years later.

  • Leanna Loomer

    May 11, 2014

    100 years ago, my grandmother was traveling from Scranton PA (her birthplace) to Milwaukee WI, with my grandfather and their first two children, a girl, 5, and a boy, 2. They were following her parents and siblings. She had become a mother 9 months after marrying and would eventually give birth to six children, among them a set of twins, a boy and a girl (my mother). I never knew her, but was told that, more than anything she was a hard worker

  • jean

    May 14, 2014

    Also important to remember how many mothers experienced deaths of their infants/children 100 years ago. Within a ten year period my paternal grandmother gave birth to seven children – 4 of them died before 3 years of age; my maternal grandmother gave birth to four children – 2 of whom died as infants. These occurred in the US during 1910 – 1920. Times were not only very hard but infections we can control today were causes of mortality back then.

  • Sharon Hogue

    May 14, 2014

    My great grandmother raised 11 children on a farm, and still found time to draw and sculpt! She was a tough lady!

  • Fran Hoxter

    May 15, 2014

    My grandmother raised eleven children, of the eleven children there were two sets of boy/girl twins. She lost a couple of children when they were first born. They lived on a farm and worked hard. Her cooking was very tasty. My grandmother died in April of 1958 after a series of strokes took her health. She was a very loving person and religious. She helped raise her oldest sons children when his wife passed shortly after giving birth to twins. Grandmom was out there each morning first with breakfast to get everyone moving and then with the gardening. She smoked her own meats and they seldom went to the store since their next door neighbor raised cows. Most clothes were made in the evening (rest time) and bible reading. So very thankful for getting to know her (she was my mother’s mother) because by the time I was born my father’s mother had passed on.

  • char mankin

    May 15, 2014

    My g.grandmother Helen Scoville Lundy was on the Overland Trail in 1863. She was three months old with her family heading for Utah. I found the Trail Manifesto on the internet.

  • Patricia Taylor

    May 15, 2014

    On a sad note, my grandmother, Carrie, died at the age of 16 years and nine months of age from childbirth fever after giving birth to my father. Neither family wanted him because Carrie’s mother was also pregnant and the father’s mother had given birth a few months earlier.
    Imagine that happening to women today the next time you hear some crazy politician condemning reproductive rights.

  • Clare Traeger Karen

    May 15, 2014

    Wish I knew my paternal grandmother. Her name was Cristine Traeger and lived and died in Illinois after birthing six children, including my father. Would love to know more about that family. Any help?

  • Sandy Forrest-Hartman

    May 15, 2014

    My maternal grandmother was born in 1898 and lived to be 95 and my paternal grandmother was born in 1906 and lived to be 89. Both were remarkable women and I am so happy that I knew them both as an adult [I was in my 30’s when they both died]. My maternal grandmother didn’t drive but that never stopped her from doing what she needed to do and my paternal grandmother didn’t stop driving until she was 87! There is something to be said for tough, pioneering genes and I’m thrilled to say I have them. Both of my parents, who were born in the 30’s, were born at home. My paternal grandmother was a genealogist and would have had fun with the internet…and my cousin and I have taken up where she left off. Love the present day and all that you can do!

  • Beatrice Jamison

    May 16, 2014

    My grandmother was born in Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1866 and came to America at nine years old. And married Anthony Glaser, they had twelve children six died before the age of seven of the plague and their doctor told them if they did not move from Pittsburgh, PA they could loose other children too. It must have been so very hard on my grandparents, I can not even comprehand such sorrow.

  • Deb tucker

    May 16, 2014

    100 years ago my great grandma (Marie Horlbog) and her sister were sent from Germany (by their father ) to escape Prussian rulers. They went to England then on to South Australia and shortly after WW1 started. Imagine being in your early teens, with little to no English, money or possessions and after months at sea arriving in Australia. She also became pregnant during the trip (not by choice) and her son was born in her new homeland. Fortunately she married a kind man who adopted her son and lived into her 90s but never heard from her family in Germany again.

  • Patricia Gibney

    May 16, 2014

    My paternal great-great-grandparents sailed from England to America in 1854. My great-great-grandmother gave birth to a son, Angelo, while on the voyage across the ocean (can you imagine?!). Including Angelo, 6 children sailed to America with her. She gave birth to four more children, including my paternal great-grandmother, after they arrived in America.
    My maternal great-grandmother died of the Spanish flu in 1918. My maternal grandparents also lost their first born, a 6-month old daughter, to that same flu epidemic. My mother was born 7 months later, and is still living today at age 95. Her younger sister is also still living at age 91. It makes me sad to think of the long life the first daughter missed out on.

  • Nellie Winter

    May 16, 2014

    Both my mothers and my Dad’s family took on the challenge of settling in northern Ontario. They got money and land if they would clear the land and lived on it. Many found it to tough and returned home. My family, a very touch bunch, living conditions were comparable to the early settlers. When I speak of my childhood, many people do not believe me. My Aunt at the age of 4 or 5 would take the team of oxen and go out to get wood for the stove. I am proud to be from a family that believes in honesty and hard work as a way of life.