It’s a day dedicated to moms everywhere. Cards. Flowers. Candy. Family time. What’s not to like? Why did Anna Jarvis, the founder of modern-day Mother’s Day, grow to despise the holiday that she helped create? It certainly didn’t start out that way.
Early Mother’s Day celebrations
Ms. Jarvis originally set out to draw attention to the important work of mothers. But she wasn’t the first. As far back as ancient Greece and Rome, festivals were celebrated in honor of motherhood. The early church celebrated “Mothering Sunday.” This was the day people returned to their “mother church” (the church they attended as children). Over time the tradition changed. It became a more secular celebration. Children presented flowers and small, handmade items to their moms. These celebrations were in no way organized like our modern-day celebrations.
Before the Civil War, Anna Jarvis set about teaching women in West Virginia how to properly care for their children. These “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” continued in popularity after the war ended. They are even credited with helping with reconciliation. How? Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day”—for mothers of former Union and Confederate soldiers. These “Friendship Days” brought moms together in the interest of promoting peace.
A national Mother’s Day
In the early 1900s, Ms. Jarvis set her sights on an even bigger goal. She wanted Mother’s Day to become a national holiday. A department store owner, John Wanamaker, backed Jarvis’ idea. He enabled Jarvis to organize the first Mother’s Day celebration in West Virginia. The celebration enjoyed a remarkably positive response. Jarvis began a letter-writing campaign to politicians and newspapers. She urged Congress to establish the day as an annual holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson did just that. The second Sunday in May was officially declared “Mother’s Day.”
Once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it didn’t take long for merchants to notice its popularity and potential. Card companies, florists, and candy makers soon profited from the annual celebration. And that’s when Anna Jarvis began to despise the day she worked so hard to establish. Jarvis intended Mother’s Day to be a personal family celebration. She felt it disgraceful to commercialize mothers and the day set aside to honor them.
Before she died, Jarvis actively campaigned against Mother’s Day. She lobbied the government to have the holiday removed from the national calendar. I understand Jarvis’ disappointment over the commercialism of Mother’s Day. But I’m happy she didn’t succeed in removing Mother’s Day from our calendar. I believe it’s still a good thing to remember and acknowledge your mom, or the women who stepped up to be “moms” in your life.
Share your favorite Mother’s Day memories in the comments below.