The somber and not so happy history of Mother's Day

Posted May 8, 2014 by Karen Graham
Mother's Day will turn 100 years old this Sunday, May 11, 2014. Set aside as a day to honor mothers, the maternal bond and the influence that mothers have in our lives, this day is celebrated worldwide, usually from April to May, in other countries.
 God sees us through our Mothers  eyes and rewards us for our virtues.  ~ Ganeshan Venkatarman
"God sees us through our Mothers' eyes and rewards us for our virtues." ~ Ganeshan Venkatarman
In the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, the celebration of Mother's Day follow along similar lines, with cards, flowers and gift-giving to mothers, grandmothers and mother-figures. But the woman who campaigned to get national attention for the holiday, Anna Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia ended up dying an unhappy founder.
The person behind Anna Jarvis' campaign was her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a pacifist, who in the 1850s held what she described as "Mother's Day" work clubs in the community. The purpose behind these meetings was to improve sanitary conditions and lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini. Antolini is a professor of American History and Gender Studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Anna Jarvis
Photo uploaded to wikipedia: June 16  2013
Anna Jarvis Photo uploaded to wikipedia: June 16, 2013
The Mother's Day work club members also cared for wounded soldiers from both sides during the Civil War. Anna Jarvis first celebrated Mother's Day in 1908 at a memorial service, held three years after the death of her beloved mother. Anna made it her mission to honor her own mother by continuing her work, as well as spreading the idea of Mother's Day across the country, to honor all mothers. Her idea of honoring our mothers meant visiting them, and writing a personal note, telling them how much they meant to us.
Anna Jarvis worked hard to get other women behind her campaign, including bringing some of her foes over to her side. One such enemy, Julia Ward Howe, the composer of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," had issued a proclamation in 1870 that called for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. This was not what Jarvis wanted her Mother's Day to promote.
The problem was that Anna's own mother had attempted to initiate a Mother's Friendship Day for Union and Confederate loyalists across her own state at the same time that Howe was actively doing her own promoting at a national level. So Anna Jarvis had her work cut out trying to get people's minds off the notion that her Mother's Day was nothing more than a peace effort.
Due to her hard work, Anna Jarvis saw her dream come to fruition, when in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation that created Mother’s Day, to be held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. Jarvis wrote Wilson a thank you note saying, this was the “great Home Day of our country for sons and daughters to honor their mothers and fathers and homes in a way that will perpetuate family ties and give emphasis to true home life.”
"For Jarvis it was a day where you'd go home to spend time with your mother and thank her for all that she did," West Virginia Wesleyan's Antolini said. "It wasn't to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you've ever known—your mother—as a son or a daughter." That's why Jarvis stressed the singular "Mother's Day," rather than the plural "Mothers' Day," Antolini explained.
Anna Jarvis' idea of what her holiday should be like, and what it became was to haunt her until she died in 1948 at the age of 84 in Philadelphia's Marshall Square Sanitarium. By the early 1920s, Hallmark and other companies had started selling Mother's Day cards. Jarvis became so upset at the blatant commercialization of the holiday that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother's Day.
First Lady of the United States of America  Michelle Obama  Prince Harry of Wales  and Jill Biden he...
First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, Prince Harry of Wales, and Jill Biden help military children create Mother's Day cards and other crafts in the State Dining Room of the White House on 9 May 2013.
Lawrence Jackson
Using her large inheritance, Jarvis set about trying to bring Mother's Day back to its reverent roots. Boycotts were organized and lawsuits were threatened, Jarvis even going so far as to threaten Eleanor Roosevelt for using the holiday to raise money for charities. "In 1923 she crashed a convention of confectioners in Philadelphia," Antolini said. In 1925, Jarvis was arrested after leading a protest against the American War Mothers, who raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother's Day.
"This woman, who died penniless in a sanitarium in a state of dementia, was a woman who could have profited from Mother's Day if she wanted to. But she railed against those who did, and it cost her everything, financially and physically," says Antolini. But of course, the holiday continues bigger than ever. Hallmark Cards, the company who sold their first Mother's Day cards in 1920, reports that Mother's Day is the number three holiday for card exchange in the United States, behind Christmas and Valentine's Day.