Henderson County, Kentucky Personalities

Mary Towles Sasseen



May, 1924 Vol. XII, No. 11

George M. Crowson, Editor Charles E. Kane, Assistant Editor


Miss Mary Towles SASSEN, School Teacher There,

First Observed It as Long Ago as the Early 90s


The originator of the idea of Mother's Day was a Henderson, Kentucky woman, Mary Towles SASSEEN, born and reared in the beautiful little city on the south bank of the Ohio River. Henderson, which is on the Evansville district of the Kentucky division of the Illinois Central System, has a population of about 15,000.

Miss SASSEEN was born in the 60s. For many years she was a teacher in the public schools of Henderson. The later years of her service as an instructor were spent as principal of the primary department of Center Street School. There are now in Henderson many persons who received their early education under her. All of them recall the observance of a certain day, which Miss SASSEEN designated as being a memorial in honor of all mothers. Special programs of singing and recitations wee held by the pupils to celebrate Mother's Day as long ago as the early 90s.

Chose Her Own Mother's Birthday

At that time April 20 was observed as Mother's Day. That was the natal day of Miss SASSEEN'S mother, which was her reason for choosing it rather than some other date. In 1893 Miss SASSEEN published a pamphlet outlining her ideas as to the desirability of commemorating the tender ties and bestowing a tribute of honor to the mothers of our land. This booklet was copyrighted that year. She traveled extensively and addressed educational societies and other organizations in various parts of the country in her effort to have the observance of Mother's Day nationally recognized and adopted. In 1894, through her efforts, the day was formally celebrated in all the public schools of Springfield, Ohio. In 1899, Miss SASSEEN became a candidate for superintendent of public instruction of Kentucky, and it was generally discussed over the state that she had first conceived the plan of celebrating Mother's Day.

Many years afterward, Miss Annie JARVIS of Philadelphia invited a friend to spend the second Sunday in May with her to commemorate the anniversary of her mother's death. That was in 1907. On that occasion Miss JARVIS announced her plan for the national observance of Mother's Day. The following year Philadelphia observed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, with fitting memorial services in the churches and homes. Miss JARVIS meanwhile had written thousands of letters to prominent ministers, teachers, business and professional men about the plan, and press dispatches carried the news story over the country, many newspapers discussing the plan with favor in their editorial columns.

Miss SASSEEN came of a distinguished family of Kentucky. She was a granddaughter of Judge Thomas TOWLES, a noted jurist of his day. Her ancestors were all of Revolutionary stock. She was known as a very successful teacher. Her pupils of the long ago still recall that she could be very firm when her youthful culprits were brought to task for some wrong-doing, but they remember her also for her keen sense of humor and kindly sentimentality.

Died in Florida in 1906

About 1900, Miss SASSEEN was married to Judge Marshall WILSON and left Henderson to make her home in Florida. She died there in 1906. She is survived by one brother, Phelps SASSEEN, who is employed on the Southern Railway at Easley, South Carolina. A cousin of Mrs. WILSON, Miss Susan S. TOWLES, is reference librarian at the Henderson Public Library.

The Henderson Chamber of Commerce and citizens interested in preserving the historical traditions of that city have recently launched a plan for erecting a memorial chapel in Henderson dedicated to the memory of the originator of Mother's Day. Miss SASSEEN was long a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church in that city. The fund will be raised by subscription.



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