Mothers have been honoured by societies all over the world for centuries but the Mother’s Day we will celebrate on Sunday 26th March was the idea of one woman, Anna Jarvis, in 1908.
Anna’s Mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had been a peace activist who cared for soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. Later she created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues and said “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” Anna wanted to honour her mother by continuing her work, but also making her vision a reality, as after all, your mother is – “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”
The first official observance of Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908 when Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to her mother’s church, Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, W.Va., (later designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1992).
Anna worked tirelessly toward this goal writing hundreds of letters and canvassing wherever she could. Congress rejected a proposal in 1908 to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would have to proclaim also a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, they finally bowed to pressure and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Anna Jarvis grew to regret her victory as she hated the commercialisation of her idea. She had suggested that people write a letter to their mother on that day to show their appreciation for the things they had done and possible to send white carnations. When the cost of these flowers sky-rocketed and card companies made a killing she was horrified and spent the next few years protesting.
Jarvis died in 1943, blind, alone, and surrounded by strangers. Jarvis never married and never had children. Her creation lives on, but not in the manner in which she intended. She had made her mother’s wish come true but the result broke her heart.
In Britain Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American festival of that name. Traditionally, it was observed as a day on which people would visit their “mother” church and also when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family. Whatever we may feel about the commercial aspect of the day, speaking as a mother, it is always lovely to see your children.Subscribe to our blog