Who created Mother’s Day? by Celia Klassen Time for Tea

Although the practice of celebrating mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, Anna Jarvis created the idea of Mother’s Day for the USA in 1908, but it wasn’t until 1914 that it became an official holiday.
Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach women how to properly care for their children before the civil war and during the war they had a unifying effect. In 1868 Jarvis, from West Virginia, organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day” aimed at mothers gathering former soldiers from both sides of the civil war to unify them.
Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870 to rally mothers to promote world peace. This celebration, called “Mother’s Peace Day” was to be celebrated every June 2.
Following the death of her mother, Anna Jarvis wanted a way to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. A department store owner in Philadelphia gave her financial backing for a celebration which was held at a Methodist church in West Virginia. There was also a Mother’s Day event at one of the department stores in Philadelphia attended by thousands of people.
Jarvis remained unmarried and childless her whole life but was resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Armed with the argument that American holidays were biased toward males she began a massive letter writing campaign. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted it as an annual holiday. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Although she wanted it to be a recognized holiday, Jarvis intended for it to be a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother. Of course florists and card companies jumped on the opportunity to commercialize the holiday. Although she initially worked with florists, she later became disillusioned by how commercialized the holiday had become and actually lobbied to have it removed from the calendar. By 1948 she had completely disowned the holiday she had worked so hard to create.
It isn’t a global holiday. Although other countries do have Mother’s Day, they celebrate it on a different day. In the UK Mother’s Day is celebrated on a Sunday during lent, in March. In Ethiopia families gather in the fall to eat a large feast and sing as part of a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.
So now I return to the debate I opened in my editorial on Valentine’s Day. Why do I need a day specifically to remember my mother? I always love my mother. I return to my argument again; do you show it? When did you last buy your mother a gift? When did you last call her? When did you last tell her thank you for all that you do? It’s been far too long hasn’t it? My mother lives 5,000 miles away and I text or talk to her every day, but Mother’s Day reminds me that I should tell her that I really appreciate her. It’s easy to get bogged down in the everyday stuff.
Also a note to fathers of children who are too young to do mother’s day. To say ‘but you’re not my mother’ does not work. How will a child grow up to know how to appreciate their mother if their father does not teach them?
There is also the much more sensitive subject of the people who didn’t have a mother figure, or people who long to be a mother and can’t. It is a sorrowful day for those who have lost their mothers, or even those who have lost children who might have celebrated with them. There is no option but to be sensitive to people who may not have shared their stories. I know several people who struggled for a very long time to have children, I know several people who have lost children. This is not a holiday anyone should feel forced to participate in. This is not a holiday like Christmas where you spread the joy.
Jarvis’ original idea to spend a private time with your mother, show her you appreciate her in whatever way you want. Whether it’s flowers or a big gift, chocolates, or a tiny gift. Whether it’s a drawing you did at school or simply spending the afternoon with her. Spare a thought for those who struggle with the holiday, the ones I’ve mentioned and the children who don’t have mother figures.
I should have said before this doesn’t have to be your actual mother. I appreciate my mother-in-law. A far cry from the stereotype, I really love my mother-in-law and treat her like I do my own mother. I will celebrate her as well on Mother’s Day.
It might be an older friend who has been a mother to you, or an aunt or grandparent. The basic idea is to remember those who have sacrificed for you and brought you up to be who you are today, to show them some appreciation.
P.S. It’s Sunday, May 14; that’s THIS SUNDAY.
Fun Fact: More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year – phone traffic spikes as much as 37 percent.

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