In 1970, Marian McQuade began a campaign to set aside a special day just for grandparents. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the first presidential proclamation, designating the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. The first official observance was Sept. 9, 1979 — and has been celebrated every year since.
In 1989, the U.S. Postal Service honored McQuade with a commemorative envelope bearing her likeness to acknowledge the tenth anniversary of the holiday. McQuade, sadly, passed away last year at the age of of 91. She was the mother of 15, the grandmother of 43, and the great-grandmother of 15.
On September 12, 2010, Grandparents Day will reach its 31th anniversary. Like Mother's Day and Father's Day, it's a time for family celebration, and a chance to honor the important role grandparents play in children's lives.
In the original proclamation, President Carter wrote that because grandparents "are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations."
Today, though, an increasing number of grandparents have actually assumed daily responsibility for their grandchildren. According to AARP, 4.5 million children are being raised in households headed by grandparents. For those kids and millions of others, grandparents create special relationships and impart lessons that last a lifetime. As Carter wrote, "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."
Other important facts:
- 2.6 million — The number of grandparents responsible for most of the basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, clothing) of one or more of the grandchildren who lived with them in 2008. These grandparents represented about 41% of all grandparents whose grandchildren lived with them. Of these caregivers, 1.6 million were grandmothers, and 983,000 were grandfathers.
- 19% — Percentage of grandparents who were caring for their grandchildren and whose income was below the poverty level. This represents 493,000 grandparents.
- $46,906 — Median income for families with grandparent-caregiver householders. If a parent of the grandchildren was not present, the median dropped to $34,782.
- 977,000 — Number of grandparents responsible for caring for their grandchildren for at least the past five years.
- 1.9 million — The number of grandparent-caregivers who were married.
- 1.6 million — The number of grandparents who were in the labor force and also responsible for most of the basic needs of their grandchildren.
- 655,000 — Number of grandparents with a disability who were caring for their grandchildren.
- 72% — Among grandparents who cared for their grandchildren, the percentage who lived in an owner-occupied home.
- 7 million — The number of children living with a grandparent in 2009; these children comprised 9% of all children in the United States. Of these children, 4.5 million, lived in the grandparent's home.
- 2.7 million — The number of children who lived with both a grandmother and a grandfather in 2009.
- 30% — Among children younger than 5 whose mothers worked outside the home, the percentage cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent during their mother's working hours in 2005.