Grandparents Day is a holiday created by federal proclamation in 1978. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. It is not, however, one of the federal holidays for which government workers receive a day off. It is celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, so it falls between September 7 and 13.
Marian McQuade, a West Virginia mother of 15, began a campaign for Grandparents Day in 1970. Three years later, her home state created the first Grandparents Day in the nation. The movement for a national holiday stalled, however, and McQuade and her supporters rallied the media and organizations for older Americans to support the cause, finally succeeding eight years later.
The holiday is designed as a two-way experience. According to the National Grandparents Day Council, the holiday is intended to make children aware of "the strength, information and guidance older people can offer." In addition, it is meant to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children. Although many see it as a day to give gifts to grandparents, it is appropriate for grandparents to give gifts to grandchildren on Grandparents Day, especially if they are gifts that honor family traditions.
McQuade was something of an iconoclast, and her vision for Grandparents Day was decidedly noncommercial in nature. One thing she wished to accomplish was to gain attention for nursing homes residents. For years she and her husband promoted Grandparents Day at their own expense. When Hallmark wanted to create a line of cards for Grandparents Day, the company offered a royalty to McQuade. She refused the royalty.
McQuade died in 2008. When she died, she had 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.