Grandparents Day, celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day, was not started as a way to sell greeting cards as many of us might suspect. It was through the efforts of one very dedicated woman, Marian McQuade, that on August 3, 1978 ex-President Jimmy Carter proclaimed it a national holiday.
Marian McQuade started her campaign for Grandparents Day in the early 1970s. Her idea was for the holiday to be a time for families to visit with older family members living in nursing homes. Her idea, however, quickly grew to encompass much more. As she worked with politicians and others, she emphasized the wisdom and family history grandparents can offer their grandchildren and other family members.
McQuade’s interest in connecting generations began when she was a young girl visiting her grandmother on her farm. After chores were done at the end of the day, they would visit elderly neighbors, often taking along food and gifts. McQuade’s interactions during these times, along with the close relationship with her grandmother, planted the seeds for a lifetime of advocating for the elderly.
As an adult, McQuade worked tirelessly to provide support for elderly shut-ins. Through her efforts, McQuade was eventually appointed to the West Virginia Committee on Aging, the Nursing Home Licensing Board, and, finally, to the White House Conference on Aging where she had an even greater impact. It was there her hard work paid off and Grandparents Day became a National Holiday.
The month of September was chosen for Grandparents Day as a symbol of the “autumn years” of life. It also coincides with the start of school, giving children the perfect opportunity to interview their grandparents for school reports. Many teachers have found that grandparents can serve as valuable references for historical events, bringing history more alive than any book ever could!
McQuade passed away at age 91 in 2008 but continues to live on in the hearts and minds of her 15 children and 43 grandchildren. Beyond her own family, McQuade’s efforts to establish Grandparents Day will continue to impact on families for generations to come.