You send the flowers and make the required phone call every Mother’s Day, but have you ever thought about why there is a Mother’s Day in the first place? Do you know about the women who fought and struggled to make the holiday a reality…and what eventually became of them?
An Official Holiday
Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, though it was named and created in 1908. However, the tradition of celebrating the idea of mothers dates back to ancient civilizations. The ancient Greeks and Romans both honored motherhood and mother goddess figures.
The tradition was maintained even after the Greeks and Romans converted to Christianity, in the early holiday “Mothering Sunday.” The holiday included a trip to the church for a special service, and often children presented their moms with tokens and flowers to celebrate the day. These customs helped form the holiday we now know as Mother’s Day…but it was a hard-fought battle.
The Battle for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day Work Clubs were started in West Virginia by Ann Reeves Jarvis shortly before Civil War broke out in the United States. Later, she organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day” in 1868. On this day, mothers would gather with former soldiers for the Confederacy and the Union in an attempt to facilitate reconciliation.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” It was a call for mothers to unite and promote world peace. Later this idea became “Mother’s Peace Day” in 1873, which Julia wanted celebrated on June 2.
But in the main, Mother’s Day as we know it is the handiwork of Anna Jarvis. She was the daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, who died in 1905. At that time, Anna Jarvis fleshed out the idea that so many women had been dancing around: a Mother’s Day to honor all the sacrifices that mothers make for their offspring.
Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 in West Virginia. A simultaneous event, held in Philadelphia, saw thousands of attendees. Anna ended up making Mother’s Day her life’s work. Celebration wasn’t enough; she wanted the holiday officially added to the calendar.
It began with a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians. Her efforts were so widespread, many states had their own Mother’s Day by 1912. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially deemed that Mother’s Day would fall on every second Sunday in May.
The Unexpected Twist
Originally under Anna’s idea, Mother’s Day was meant to be celebrated by wearing a white carnation and attending church. As the holiday became popular, however, card companies and florists found ways to capitalize. The day became increasingly commercial, and its creator Anna Jarvis became increasingly dissatisfied.
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, she denounced the holiday by 1920. She even publicly encouraged people to stop buying the candies, cards and trappings associated with Mother’s Day. Jarvis even sued several groups for using the name “Mother’s Day.” In 1925 she crashed a convention being held by the American War Mothers and was subsequently arrested. By her 1948 death, she had completely disowned the day and even lobbied the government to have it — get this — removed from the calendar. She never had any children.