Have you ever wondered how honoring Mom became an official day, recognized by millions? Retailers, especially flower shops and restaurants really look forward to this day for their own special reasons.
How Far Back Does Mother’s Day Go?
The history mother’s day is actually different from the modern celebration of today. I suppose mother’s day can be liken to the festival in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. This festival was celebrated by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
There was also a Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday was once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. Taking place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, it was seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church” for a special service.
Over time Mothering Sunday gradually changed into a more secular holiday. Children would present their mothers with flowers and other things to show appreciation.
American Mother’s Day History
Anna Jarvis is pretty much credited with founding Mother’s Day in the United States. It was designated as the second Sunday in May by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
Women gathered once a year in their chosen venues to listen to sermons, present essays, sing hymns, and pray. These things were done to promote peace.
Several cities including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago held annual June 2nd Mother’s Day services until roughly 1913. These early Mother’s Day movements became popular only with peace activist groups and faded when other promoters took the spotlight.
More American History
A former football coach and faculty member at University of Notre Dame, by the name of Frank Hering, also proposed the idea of a Mother’s Day before Anna Jarvis. He urged the Fraternal Order of Eagles to support “setting aside of one day in the year as a Nationwide memorial to the memories of Mother’s and Motherhood.
Hering did not suggest a specific day or month for observing the occasion, but he did have a preference for Sunday. Local “aeries” of the Fraternal Order of Eagles took up Herings suggestion. Today the organization credits Hering and the Eagles as the true founders of Mother’s Day.
Anna Jarvis did not like the thought of Mother’s Day having a “father” in Hering. She called him out in an undated 1920s statement entitled “Kidnapping Mother’s Day: Will You Be an Accomplice?
Jarvis felt that Hering was attempting to take the rightful title of originator and founder of Mother’s Day from her. She further added that Mother’s Day was established by her after decades of untold labor, time, and expense.
Mother’s Day Stamp (as in postage)
Like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wholly agreed with the idea of a celebration day of Mom’s. FDR personally designed a 1934 postage stamp to commemorate the day.
He co-opted a stamp that was originally designed to honor 19-century painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler and featured the artist’s “Whistler’s Mother” portrait. FDR surrounded the material image with a dedication: “IN MEMORY AND HONOR OF THE MOTHERS OF AMERICA”
Anna Jarvis wouldn’t have it, she thought the stamp was ugly.
Mother’s Day Used as Fundraisers
Some groups used the idea of Mother’s Day to raise funds for various charities — including mother’s in need, but Jarvis hated that. She called those charities Christian pirates. Today most of us would think the fundraising idea great to raise funds to support poor mothers or families of WW1 veterans or other worthy groups.
Much of the reason why Jarvis felt this way was because before charity watchdog organizations, Jarvis simply didn’t trust fundraisers to deliver help to the intended group.
Mother’s Day Commercialized
It didn’t take long for Mother’s Day to be a big money day for retailers and others.
To Anna, Mother’s Day had become a wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days had become. She wrote in the 1920s. “If the American people are not willing to protect Mother’s Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mother’s Day — and we know how.”
Anna Jarvis must have considered Mother’s Day her legal property and wasn’t afraid to defend her rules about this day in court.
She warned in an Associated Press release that if any charity, institution, hospital, organization, or business using Mother’s Day names, work, emblem, or celebration for getting money, making sales or on printed forms should be held as impostors by proper authorities, and reported to this association.
She once had as many as 33 simultaneously pending Mother’s Day lawsuits.
Jarvis never profited from the day even though she was considered a minor celebrity of sort. In fact, she went broke using what little money she had fighting the holiday’s commercialization.
Her stability was in question, and she was in poor health. Anna Jarvis died penniless. After living the last four years of her life in the Marshall Square Sanitarium, she died at the age of 84.
So in Conclusion
The white carnation was the favorite flower of Anna Jarvis’s mother, and that flower was the original flower of Mother’s Day.
“The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mother’s hugs their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying,” Jarvis explained in a 1927 interview.