Today, May 10, is celebrated as Mother's Day holiday in the U.S. It's been a number years since I visited the history of this holiday; this is a rehash and update and I wanted to share with everyone. (I'm nice that way.)
Sadly, both our mothers are deceased; Grenville's for over 45 years and mine for more than 5 years. If you're fortunate to have your mother, celebrate her everyday.
(Of course, in some cases, sadly there have been mothers who may not be as fondly remembered.)
Mother's Day This 'n That
Mother’s Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. More people buy flowers and plants than for any other holiday, except Christmas and Hanukkah.
Anna Jarvis, the woman credited founding Mother’s Day was never married and was also childless. She established the holiday to honor her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis.
The correct placement of the apostrophe is Mother’s Day. Jarvis, was very specific — “mother’s day” is a singular possessive referring to a single mother (yours), not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers.
The U.S. Congress rejected a 1908 Mother’s Day proposal from Jarvis for a national holiday. Jarvis garnered public support and, by 1912, every state observed Mother’s Day.
President Woodrow Wilson has been called the father of Mother’s Day.
Jarvis urged people to stop buying gifts and flowers for Mother’s Day, upset that it had become over-commercialized within 6 years of the 1914 holiday proclamation.
Mother’s Day marks the highest U.S. phone traffic of the year. More phone calls are made this day than any other day of the year; phone traffic often spikes nearly 40 percent.
Hallmark Card sales show that most people do not make homemade greetings as its founder had proposed.
Jarvis died in 1948 and is buried next to her mother in a Bala-Cynwyd, PA cemetery.
Way Back Where It Began
The origin of Mother’s Day pre-dates the Civil War (1861-1865). In 1868, Ann Reeves Jarvis (called Mother Jarvis) started mothers’ day clubs in West Virginia teaching women how to care for their children. Jarvis had 13 children, only 4 survived to adulthood. Epidemics were common; up to 30% of infants died before their first birthday.
These clubs became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. Throughout the war, Mother Jarvis, a peace activist, had organized many women’s brigades, asking women to do all they could without regard for which side their men had chosen.
|Anna Jarvis, Mother's Day Founder|
After her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis considered that a Mother’s Day holiday could honor sacrifices mothers made for their children. Jarvis wanted to set aside a day to honor not only her mother, but all mothers.
The first Mother's Day was celebrated May 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia at the Methodist church where Anna Jarvis taught Sunday School. While not there, Anna sent 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to be to represent the purity of a mother’s love and be worn by sons and daughters to honor their mothers.
Jarvis had financial backing from retailer John Wanamaker. That day, thousands attended a similar event at Wanamaker’s department store auditorium in Philadelphia, PA.
Following the success of these events, Jarvis resolved to see the holiday added to the national calendar. She started a letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.
In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday joking they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law's Day.”
In 1912, she trademarked the phrase, Second Sunday in May, Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, Founder, and created the Mother's Day International Association to promote her cause. She appealed for public support with letter writing, country-wide promos (this was way before TV, radio and internet). Financial assistance came from backers such as retail magnate John Wanamaker and entrepreneur H.J. Heinz.
Jarvis devoted herself full-time to the promotion of Mother’s Day and argued that U.S. holidays were slanted to male achievements. She urged the adoption of a special day to honor motherhood and recalled her mother's words, in a 1978 Sunday school lesson on Biblical, There are many days for men, none for mothers.
It worked. By 1912, states, towns and churches observed it as a local holiday. The first in 1910 was West Virginia, her home state. President Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914
making Mother's Day a national holiday honoring mothers on the second Sunday in May.
|President Woodrow Wilson|
What Happened Later
Commercialization, as always, flourished after Mother’s Day became a national holiday as florists and others capitalized on its popularity. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards, the oldest and largest U.S. manufacturer of greeting cards was marketing Mother's Day cards. There was a huge profit margin in this new holiday.
Jarvis, at first, worked with the floral industry. Her version of the day was to wear a white carnation as a badge and visit one’s mother or attend church services. She argued that appreciation of mothers should be through handwritten letters of love and gratitude, not store-bought gifts and cards.
In retaliation, she organized Mother’s Day boycotts and threaten to issue lawsuits against companies, spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. She railed non-stop against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities.
In 1923, Jarvis protested at a candy makers' convention in Philadelphia and in 1925 at a meeting of American War Mothers. Carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, had become associated with Mother's Day. Selling carnations to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace.
She launched countless lawsuits against groups that were using the name “Mother’s Day.” By the time of her 1948 death, she had disowned the holiday, and lobbied the to see it removed from the U.S. holiday calendar.
Today, Mother’s Day is way more popular than Jarvis imagined. Just check out any greeting card rack to find cards to honor any mom-like figure in your life.
Our Mothers before they were moms — Clara Rose & Mary Elizabeth 💐