Mother’s Day

Anna Maria Jarvis

Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day, Siblings Day, and Grandparents Day.

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), American poet, author, social activist, abolitionist and advocate for women’s suffrage. called for women to join in support of disarmament and asked for 2 June 1872, to be established as a “Mother’s Day for Peace.” Her 1870 “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” is sometimes referred to as Mother’s Day Proclamation. But Howe’s day was not for honouring mothers but for organizing pacifist mothers against war. In the 1880s and 1890s there were several further attempts to establish an American “Mother’s Day,” but these did not succeed beyond the local level.

It was not Howe. but Anna Maria Jarvis (1864-1948) who celebrated the first Mothers Day in 1908, when she held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Three years previously she hadstarted her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States as a result the death of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

In 1908, a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, was rejected by Congress, but within three years Anna Jarvis had convinced all U. S. states to observe the holiday. In 1914, President Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis protested at a candy makers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923, and at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, carnations had become associated with Mother’s Day, and the selling of carnations by the American War Mothers to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace.

In the United States, Mother’s Day remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and the like; Mother’s Day is also the biggest holiday for long-distance telephone calls. Moreover, churchgoing is also popular on Mother’s Day, yielding the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is dead.

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