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All About Grandparents Day

The history and origin of Grandparents Day

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National Grandparents Day is an annual observance in the United States that honors grandparents and other seniors, and seeks to strengthen relationships between the generations.

When is Grandparents Day?
Grandparents Day is celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. The specific date changes year-to-year. Because it is tied to Labor Day, however, Grandparents Day is never earlier than September 7 or later than September 13.

How Did Grandparents Day Begin?
National Grandparents Day was created in 1978 by a federal proclamation, passed by Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter. National Grandparents Day was first celebrated on Sunday, September 9, 1979.

But Grandparents Day really began much earlier as the brainchild of Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, a West Virginia homemaker and mother of 15 children. In 1970, she began a campaign to establish a special day to honor grandparents. Her enthusiasm soon attracted the support of businesses, churches, civic groups, and political leaders. In 1973, the first Grandparents Day was proclaimed in West Virginia by Governor Arch Moore.

The same year, U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph from West Virginia introduced a Grandparents Day resolution in the U.S. Senate. When the resolution languished in committee, McQuade and her supporters rallied media support for a National Grandparents Day and began contacting governors, senators, and congressional representatives in every state as well as national organizations interested in senior issues.

In 1978, five years after Grandparents Day was first recognized in West Virginia and eight years after she began her campaign, McQuade succeeded. Congress passed legislation proclaiming the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day, and President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.

Why was Grandparents Day Created?
According to an excerpt from the National Grandparents Day Proclamation:

“As we seek to strengthen the enduring values of the family, it is appropriate that we honor our grandparents.

“Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”

What is the Purpose of Grandparents Day?
According to the National Grandparents Day Council, Grandparents Day has a threefold purpose:

  • To honor grandparents
  • To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children.
  • To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
What is the National Grandparents Day Council?
The National Grandparents Day Council is a nonprofit group, organized by the descendents of Marian McQuade, the founder of National Grandparents Day, to honor grandparents, promote intergenerational appreciation and activities, and encourage people to visit seniors who are in nursing homes.

The National Grandparents Day Council recruits representatives from every state, and sponsors contests (photo, essay, poetry, web design, songwriting and art) that help children honor their grandparents.

What Inspired Grandparents Day?
When Marian McQuade was a child, she often visited her grandmother, Maude McClung Dickerson, on her 130-acre farm in West Virginia.

"After working all day on the farm, Grandma would walk off to visit elderly people of the community," McQuade recalled in a 1995 interview with the magazine Wonderful West Virginia. "Often I would tag along. I never forgot talking with those delightful people. That's where my love and respect for oldsters started."

McQuade’s lifelong advocacy for seniors not only led to the creation of National Grandparents Day, it also put her on a path to national prominence as a leader on senior issues and gave her the opportunity to present her views to three U.S. presidents (Eisenhower, Nixon and Carter).

The Current State of Grandparents Day
Grandparents Day began as the idea of one woman, who inspired other dedicated people to follow her lead and join her campaign to establish a special day for grandparents. Today, Grandparents Day is celebrated by millions of people throughout the United States, who take the opportunity to honor their parents and grandparents, to visit other older friends and relatives, and to recognize the wisdom, strength and lasting contributions of seniors everywhere.

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