A Chinese mother and her child wear traditional clothing from the Manchurian region of China.
A Chinese mother and her child wear traditional clothing from the Manchurian region of China.
Photograph by Eliza R. Scidmore, Nat Geo Image Collection

Vintage photos celebrate mothers around the world

For Mother's Day, see how moms have cared for their children for the last 100 years.

Balancing an infant on her hip. Cradling one child while holding the hand of another. Caring for a baby while finishing her work.

The mothers in these vintage images strike familiar poses that span the globe and cross cultural and geographic barriers. Their clothing and hairstyles may differ, but their actions are similar, showing that a mother's love is universal.

Mother's Day was created in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. It has a somewhat dark history, originally founded by Anna Jarvis to honor mourning women, remember fallen soldiers, and work for peace.

"For Jarvis it was a day where you'd go home to spend time with your mother and thank her for all that she did," historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College told National Geographic in 2014. "It wasn't to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you've ever known—your mother—as a son or a daughter."

These photos show the ways different mothers around the world have supported children—their own, their neighbors', and even those of strangers—through the ages.

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