USAG Public Affairs Office
May 12 is Mother’s Day, something you cannot have missed if you turn on the TV or listen to the radio. There are ads for everything that is the “perfect Mother’s Day gift” on every channel, ad nauseam. It seems in our society that a little egg-looking device that scrapes the skin off feet is now the “perfect” way to tell mom you love her.
What a change this is from how Mother’s Day began.
Following the Civil War, Ann Jarvis formed a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” in 1868. Her purpose was “to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.” Although Jarvis hoped to expand the day to honor all mothers, she died in 1905 before seeing her vision become reality.
Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, would pick up where her mother left off, working toward an annual celebration of motherhood.On May 10, 1908, the first official service paying tribute to mothers was held in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, W.Va., where Anna’s mother had been teaching Sunday school.
As Anna Jarvis continued her efforts to have the holiday officially recognized, West Virginia officially recognized it in 1910, with the rest of states following quickly.On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The following day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives voted twice on a resolution commemorating Mother’s Day, and Grafton’s church, where the first celebration was held, is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine and a National Historic Landmark.
During the first celebration in 1908, Anna Jarvis had 500 carnations delivered to the Grafton church to honor her mother, as this was her mother’s favorite flower. Later, due to a shortage of white carnations, florists began selling red carnations for wearing if a person’s mother was still alive, while white flowers symbolized a deceased mother.
The advertising we see today to get mom that “perfect gift” is nothing new; in fact it started less than a decade after the first Mother’s Day. The commercialization of what is meant to be a day spent honoring your mother upset Anna Jarvis, and she would spend the remainder of her life, as well as her inheritance, fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.
Voicing her protest against the greeting card industry that rose around Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis said it was a poor way of paying tribute to mothers, as she believed people had become too lazy to even write a personal letter of thanks and love to their mothers.
In 1948, Anna Jarvis was arrested for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day, saying she, “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control.” She would die later that year.
Today, Mother’s Day is one of the most commercially important days of the year, and it is Mother’s Day, not Valentine’s Day, that is the most popular day for people in the U.S. to dine out.Ann and Anna Jarvis had a dream of a day where children paid tribute to their mothers, and that dream, even if Anna would be disgusted at the overly commercial tone the day has taken on, lives on today.
So remember to take the time May 12 to honor your mother, and think of the gifts and lessons she has brought you through the years.
To all mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day.