Our History

Mamie AMI
First Lady Mamie Doud Eisenhower dedicates the National Mother of the Year plaque, which hangs in the Waldorf Astoria, New York City.

The ideals of American Mothers, Inc.® began in the heart and mind of Anna Reeves Jarvis as she sought to heal the damage done to families caught in the conflict of the Civil War. By organizing a day of love and friendship across battle lines, this simple observance grew into the national holiday known as Mother’s Day for which American Mothers is the official sponsor.

American Mothers was originally organized as a division of the Golden Rule Foundation and the first National Mother of the Year was presented by Honorary Chairman, Sarah Delano Roosevelt in 1935 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Every year since then, American Mothers has named a remarkable mother from nominees among the 50 states, District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for this important honor.

Many outstanding individuals throughout America have served as officers, leaders, members and supporters of this organization such as Sarah Delano Roosevelt, J.C. Penny, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs, Phyllis Marriott and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.

American Mothers is an interfaith, non-political, non-profit organization that continues to recognize the invaluable contribution mothers make to the future success and happiness of children and society. It is an organization comprised of women and men who are interested in championing women by honoring, educating and serving mothers at home, at work, and in the world and today is the voice of 85 million moms in America and it is headquartered in Washington, DC.

American Mothers, Inc.® is committed to valuing mothers through service and education and has been MomNation since 1935.  As the official sponsor of Mother’s Day and the Mother of the Year®, American Mothers is the voice of 85 million mothers in America.

Honoring the mission of the organization founders Eleanor Roosevelt, Sara Delano Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, JC Penney, and Norman Vincent Peale, American Mothers is dedicated to improving the lives of mothers and children in the US and around the world.

Each year American Mothers honors motherhood by naming the National Mother of the Year® and hosting the Mom to Mom Conference.   As a NonGovernmental Organization (NGO) centered at the United Nations, and leader of the Global Motherhood Coalition, American Mothers organizes annual panel discussions and participates in high-level meetings focused on addressing global struggles for mothers and children.  By bringing mothers together from across the country, American Mothers organizes maternal energy for positive change.

The Very First

Lucy Keen Johnson from Georgia was billed as ‘the typical mother of 1935’ when she was recognized as the first Mother of the Year ® by the American Mothers Committee. The celebration was simple but celebrity-studded.  There was a small luncheon and program over at CBS, followed by an informal reception before the evening NBC broadcast.  At that time, the Motherhood Medal was presented to her by Sarah Delano Roosevelt, the President’s mother.

Lucy Keen attended Wesleyan Conservatory, the world’s oldest college for women.  Soon after graduation, she married Fletcher M. Johnson, a young lawyer with five children.  In 1914, at age 38, Lucy was left a widow with her five step children and a daughter of her own.

Lucy soon became the Dean of Women at Wesleyan College, her alma mater, while raising her children and “mothering” a sizable college community. Along with her career and family, Lucy always found time for the concerns of others.  A loyal Methodist, she served in various capacities within her church and found time for community projects.

Sweet and grandmotherly, this woman of refinement had successfully met the problems of raising a family alone and accepted for all mothers the plaudits of her country as the very first American Mother of the Year ®.

Excerpts above from Mothers of Men, a twenty-five-year history of the American Mothers of the Year, by Lillian Poling, President of American Mothers from 1956-1962.

Mother of the Year®

The idea of a Mothers Committee began in 1931 when Eleanor Roosevelt announced the formation of a nation-wide program for the better observance of Mother’s Day that would help dependent mothers and needy children.  Sponsored by JC Penny’s Golden Rule Foundation, the Golden Rule Mother’s Day Committee established a fund to promote a “Golden Rule observance of Mother’s Day.”

By 1933, committees were formed in most every state and expressed the philosophy that “the truest tribute that can be paid to Mother is to share with others the love that she so generously and often sacrificially lavished upon us.” The funds established were distributed to local hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages, churches and other welfare agencies to be used where needed most.

By 1935, the American Mothers Committee of the Golden Rule Foundation gathered New York City’s elite at the Waldorf Astoria where Sarah Delano Roosevelt, the Committee’s Honorary Chairman, presented Lucy Keen Johnson from Georgia as the first American Mother of the Year®. The recognition of a “great” mother was made so as to provide an inspiration to the nation that would represent a mother’s unconditional love, inner strength, and courage.

It was written that Lucy Johnson embodied the highest qualities found in the typical American mother at the time. She was the mother of six and educated at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia.  At the age of 21, she married and moved to Ithaca, New York, where her husband practiced law.  Her husband’s death in 1914 left her with a large family to care for.  She became Dean of Women at her alma mater and put all of her children through college. In her role as Dean, it was said she mothered not only her own children but all of the students on campus.

Since 1935, American Mothers has recognized ordinary mothers who have been extraordinary in their role. Moms who come from all walks of life, different states, different faiths, and various cultural and educational backgrounds. Mothers who are making a significant difference, not just with their own children and families, but who have made a positive impact in their communities, their states, and our nation.

For over 80 years, American Mothers, Inc.® has continued this rich tradition of honoring, educating and serving mothers who have made a positive difference in their communities and whose accomplishments are an inspiration to all.

The remarkable women recognized by this organization are genuine examples of that ‘typical’ American mother. They embody all of the admirable qualities for which that first honor was given and their stories are truly amazing! We encourage you to nominate that inspirational mom in your community for one of our awards.

Click here for a list of Past National Mother of the Year.