We set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our mothers—thank them for all they do and have done in raising us to be worthwhile human beings.
I had always understood that official Mother’s Day celebrations began in the early twentieth century when Anna Jarvis desired to honor her late mother. What I had not realized was that others had tried and failed to rally support for a certain kind of “Mother’s Day” in the United States long before 1908. These earlier efforts were not generic expressions of familial love. They were a means to promote peace.
Anna’s mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had a hand in the beginnings of the movement. According to the West Virginia Archives and History, in the summer of 1865, Ann established a “Mother’s Friendship Day.” Local soldiers from both sides began returning from the Civil War and tensions ran high between them. Ann wanted to bring together families who had members serving on both sides during the war, as well as those with varying political opinions. Though the annual event lasted several years, it never caught on nationally before Ann’s death in 1905.
Julia Ward Howe, famous for writing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, hoping to promote peace among mothers worldwide and prevent their sons from dying in wars. She succeeded in promoting ten years’ observance of the day, but after her financial support faded away, so did most of the celebrations.
Then we get back to Anna Marie Jarvis, who must have inherited her mother’s determination and spunk. In 1907, she began the tradition of giving white carnations to mothers, when she handed them out to those in her mother’s West Virginia church. (Since then, this tradition has changed to white carnations for deceased mothers and red or pink for those who are still living.)
In 1908, Anna succeeded in getting this same church to hold a May service in honor of mothers. The campaign to spread the observance began in earnest, but a bill introduced in the U. S. Senate the same year experienced a prompt death. However, in the next year Mother’s Day services were held in forty-six states.
West Virginia, Anna’s home state, became the first to officially recognize Mother’s Day in 1912. Two years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a joint resolution that made it a national holiday on the second Sunday in May. However, this resolution had nothing to do with promoting peace. It became the familiar, “Mom, we love you. Thanks for all you do.”
Ironically, what Anna hoped would be a solemn time to honor mothers everywhere turned into the typical commercialism, an effort to make a buck. For the rest of her life, she spent what money she had fighting what she considered an abuse of the day. Physically blind, she died in a nursing home in 1948, with no money and (also ironically) no children.
So, when you go out to buy your cards and flowers and candies, keep in mind that Mother’s Day began as a way for mothers to promote peace—even if it was just among their children!
“May she who gave you birth rejoice!” Proverbs 23:25 (NIV)
What Say You?
Okay, since this blog deals mainly with writing, and in particular, novels, who is your favorite fictional mother? Why?