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Julia Pierpont Day – May 28, 2023

Julia Pierpont Day is celebrated on May 28 every year in remembrance of Julia Augusta Robertson Pierpont’s contributions to the creation of “Decoration Day,” which was later known as “Memorial Day” and observed on May 30. Memorial Day is observed to honor all the men and women who lost their lives while serving the U.S. armed forces. Julia Pierpont, the wife of Francis Pierpont, the governor of restored West Virginia, started all of this in 1865, following the end of the Civil War. Pierpont saw that the graves of the soldiers appeared abandoned following the war. The graves of those who gave their lives to serve humanity were decorated on the initiative of both the husband and wife. Later in 2005, it was declared an official holiday in West Virginia.

History of Julia Pierpont Day

Julia Pierpont was a resident of Dryden, New York. She was an optimist and an educated activist who vehemently opposed the relocation to a slave state. Julia was married to Francis Pierpont who was elected the Governor of restored West Virginia after the Civil War. When the civil war started, Julia stood by her husband in his efforts and stayed loyal to him. She spent her time caring for children and sewing flags for the Union Soldiers with the women from her neighborhood when her husband had to leave home. Throughout the war, she worked arduously and zealously to ensure the comfort and health of the soldiers.

The Pierponts supported the Union Army and Abraham Lincoln throughout the Civil War. They were stranded in Richmond, Virginia, which was enemy territory. When some of the prior supporters set Pierpont’s library on fire, this became real, since living in the enemy’s territory is usually accompanied by disturbances and perturbations. The Governor pardoned all those confederates who had served in the army and this situation created tension between the Governor and the Unionists.

During this unfavorable situation, Julia noticed that the graves of the fallen appeared to have been neglected and were in poor condition. In 1866, Julia and her friend Miss Woolsey, teaching in the African American schools, decorated the graves of the soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, West Virginia. In addition to Miss Woolsey, her students, and many other students, Julia paraded to the cemetery to help clean up and decorate the graves with flowers. Even though it was exhausting and unpleasant, they completed the mission in just 10 days, which included building a fence to surround the new Union cemetery. On May 1, 1865, 10,000 people (mostly black residents) gathered at the cemetery to hear sermons and sing in honor of the fallen troops.

Julia’s action drew both praise and condemnation. Later on May 30, ‘Decoration Day’ was celebrated all over Richmond and thousands of people gathered to adorn confederate graves. Other early and local Memorial Day or Decoration Day commemorations eventually led to Congress declaring the day a legal holiday. During World War I, the list of honorees was broadened to include everyone who lost their lives while serving in the military. The West Virginia University Public History Program, in collaboration with the Center for Women’s Studies and the Historic Preservation Unit, named Julia Pierpont the creator of the annual “Memorial Day” celebrations in 1987.

Julia Pierpont Day timeline

1860
Presidential Elections

Julia’s husband takes part in presidential elections, through which their life takes a historic turn.

1861
Francis Pierpont in Wheeling Convention

After convening for a month, Pierpont and his friends from western Virginia are chosen to go to the second wheeling convention.

1863
Julia Follows Her husband

Julia follows her husband wheeling as Governor of restored Virginia and further to Alexandria.

1971
Observance of ‘Memorial Day’

After a lot of amendments, Memorial Day becomes a federal holiday.

Julia Pierpont Day FAQs

Who declared Memorial Day a federal holiday?

General John A. Logan, the Grand Army of the Republic’s (G.A.R.) Commander-in-Chief proclaimed May 30 to be Decoration Day in 1868 because of Pierpont’s deeds.

When did Julia Pierpont die?

Julia Augusta Robertson Pierpont died on March 25, 1886. She is buried in Fairmont’s Woodlawn Cemetery alongside her husband.

What is the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day?

Memorial Day honors people who have lost their lives while serving in their country’s military, especially those who died in battle or because of war injuries. In other words, Memorial Day honors veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Veterans Day is designated to honor and remember everyone who has served in the military or the civilian sector, regardless of whether they died or survived. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it occurs.

How to Observe Julia Pierpont Day

  1. Be thankful to a veteran

    Veterans are those who have served in the military for a long time and have seen multiple wars. On this day, people can express their gratitude to at least one veteran for their efforts in defending them from enemies.

  2. Visit the cemeteries and memorials

    People can pay respects to those who gave their lives to protect others by visiting the graves of Julia Pierpont and other cemeteries. Decorate, clean, and hold a prayer service at the graves for the consolation of the departed.

  3. Recognize the efforts of Julia Pierpont

    Julia Pierpont Day can be observed by honoring her contributions and reading her biography. Her lifelong generosity and selflessness are clear that she was a truly remarkable human being.

5 Interesting Facts About Julia Pierpont’s Memorial Day That Everyone Should Know

  1. Memorial Day has ancient roots

    Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Athens held annual days and feasts to commemorate their loved ones.

  2. A long road

    It took about a hundred years for Decoration Day to be renamed Memorial Day.

  3. The day’s origin

    Although there has always been competition between different communities over who observed the day first, Waterloo was granted federal status in 1866.

  4. The tradition of wearing a red flower

    The tradition is related to the poetry in which the battle-dead soldiers buried on the grounds covered in poppies were given a voice.

  5. Memorial Day customs have changed

    The traditions surrounding the holiday have evolved and are now observed with greater fervor.

Why Julia Pierpont Day is Important

  1. It raises empathy towards people

    This holiday encourages empathy and understanding of other people's emotions. It enables people to be compassionate to others and accessible to those who need support.

  2. It brings about patriotism

    When a person observes the sacrifices made by those who died trying to save others, and how others honor their efforts by decorating their graves, it inspires patriotism in them. This creates a sense of belonging in one’s country.

  3. It is a lasting heritage

    With time, this day has developed into an enduring tribute to Julia Pierpont's generosity. Heritage becomes a component of the national identity and a cause for patriotism. It is said that those who maintain their sense of identity are the ones who truly inspire others.

Julia Pierpont Day dates

YearDateDay
2023May 28Sunday
2024May 28Tuesday
2025May 28Wednesday
2026May 28Thursday
2027May 28Friday

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