Women and Adversity:
Lucy Keen Johnson
First Mother of the Year
Mother’s Day, to be celebrated this year on May 14, became an official U.S. holiday when President Woodrow Wilson made the proclamation in 2014. Suffragist Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of a Mother’s Day in 1872, but it wasn’t until Anna Jarvis promoted the idea in 1908. The day honors all mothers, but in 1935 another tradition started, although not proclaimed by a president. It is Mother of the Year.
Lucy Keen Johnson has the honor of being named the first Mother of the Year and was labeled “the typical mother of 1935.” I don’t believe that tag is accurate because few women of the time went to college.
Lucy graduated from Wesleyan Conservatory in Macon, Georgia, the world’s oldest college for women. She went on to become its Dean of Women. By that time the name had changed to Wesleyan College. It is associated with the United Methodist Church, of which Lucy was an active and devoted member.
The mother label is accurate, though. When she was 21, she married Fletcher Johnson, a lawyer and widower with five children. The couple had a daughter of their own as well. However, Fletcher died in 1914. Lucy was left with the children, but by then the youngest was at least 17.
The American Mothers Committee named Lucy Mother of the Year, and Sarah Delano Roosevelt, FDRs mother, presented her with the silver Motherhood Medal at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
On receiving the medal, Lucy said it was “not for myself alone but for millions of American mothers who are making our land a great nation.” The Mother of the Year award continues to be given each year. A list of the mothers who have won and their accomplishments is at www.americanmothers.org/honor-mom/mother-of-the-year.
Not much is known about Lucy Keen Johnson’s life. She was born on March 23, 1876 and died on December 2, 1958. I could only find one picture. It would be fascinating research for someone to delve into Lucy’s life and learn what her children accomplished and who their descendants are.
I include Lucy Keen Johnson in my ebook, Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers.I also wrote Women and Adversity: Honoring 23 Black Women and Women and Adversity: Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists. All are available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Thank you for enlightening us regarding the ‘Mother of the Year’ award. By definition this honor suggests reward or distinction–not the label: ‘typical!’
Brava, Lucy Keen Johnson!
I just learned further from Google that there is an organization entitled ‘American Mothers’–holding a convention each year to bestow the honor. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers–typical or distinctive!