By now you’ve probably seen the Mother’s Day Google Doodle, received and sent WhatsApp messages, read lists of “best gift ideas for your mom” and maybe even posted Instagram or Facebook messages to mark the day. Chances are, in all of those Mother’s Day interactions, you haven’t come across the name “Anna Jarvis” once.
That’s because Jarvis’ relationship to the day she founded was complicated – while she had worked tirelessly to get “Mother’s Day” officially recognized, she eventually came to hate its commercialization and spent the last of his energy and money campaigning against her. .
We take a look at who Anna Jarvis was, how she created “Mother’s Day,” and why she became bitterly disappointed with how it was ultimately celebrated.
Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother’s Day. We have a nice document she wrote to Congress.
Stop at the Karpeles Museum, learn more about Anna and create a free map for your mother. She will truly treasure it more than any store-bought card! pic.twitter.com/ZteZLLtyEV
— Karpeles Museum (@KarpelesRKI) May 5, 2022
Who was Anna Jarvis?
Anna Jarvis (May 1, 1864 – November 24, 1948) was an American activist who founded Mother’s Day to honor her and “all mothers” in 1908.
Anna grew up in West Virginia in turbulent years – Civil War firearms were in full swing when she was born, and she saw several siblings die of diseases like measles, typhoid and diphtheria.
Her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, driven by her own experiences, spent her life working for motherhood-centric causes, such as teaching mothers sanitation to prevent infant mortality and building a community of mothers on both sides of war. civilian to make up the differences in rank. .
A young Anna heard her mother say, “I hope and pray that someone, one day, will find a memorial Mother’s Day commemorating her for the incomparable service she renders to humanity in all walks of life. life. She is entitled to it. »
When Mrs. Jarvis died in 1905, Anna set to work to fulfill this wish of her mother. She wrote letter after letter to politicians, businessmen and church leaders to enlist their support for her cause, proposing the second Sunday in May as a day dedicated to celebrating mothers, with a white carnation – the favorite flower of his mother – as the emblem of the day.
Sunday being a public holiday, that probably made his job easier. That’s why she chose the second Sunday in May so that the date would be close to May 9, when her mother had died.
In 1908, Jarvis’s efforts began to pay off and two Mother’s Day events were held, at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in his hometown of Grafton (the church is now called the Sanctuary International Mother’s Day) and a larger one in Philadelphia. The day grew in popularity, and in 1914 James Heflin of Alabama introduced official legislation to recognize Mother’s Day in the House of Representatives. The bill reached the office of then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson on May 8, 1914, and was signed into law the same day.
“Domestication”, then commercialization
Prior to the success of Jarvis’ campaign – it had managed to enlist the support of industrialists like John Wanamaker (who later became the US Postmaster General) and HJ Heinz (whose ketchup you probably ate) – others had proposed days to celebrate mothers. Notable among these was Julia Ward Howe, author, abolitionist, and suffragist, who had started a celebration of Mother’s Day (placing the apostrophe prominently) in June 1873, which continued for a few years.
Historians and feminists have pointed out that Jarvis, through her strenuous efforts to have the day recognized, reduced the definition of “mother” to a caregiver who puts the needs of her children first. Instead of Howe’s Mother’s Day, Jarvis chose the singular, “Mother’s Day”, “To the best mother who ever lived, your mother”. Thus, Jarvis, the devoted daughter, wanted people to honor their individual mother who cared for them at home.
Howe, and even Mrs. Jarvis’ eldest, the ideas were more political. Ms. Jarvis had spoken of “civic leadership and service; mothers united in public works to empower themselves and help empower others. Howe, in her original Mother’s Day proclamation, wrote, “As men have often given up the plow and anvil at the call of war, let women now leave all that may remain of home for a great and serious day of advice.
Anna Jarvis’ family version of the holiday was eagerly taken up by the greeting card industry, flower industry, candy manufacturers, etc., and Mother’s Day was soon heavily commercialized. A New York Times report from 1964, the 50th anniversary of Mother’s Day, says, “According to the National Committee on the Observance of Mother’s Day, Inc., the day has become an occasion for gift-giving after Christmas.
Jarvis hated what the day she was striving to establish was rapidly mutating into. She has now devoted her energies to stopping this commercialization, through written campaigns, litigation and, later, direct actions. From the start, she had protected the phrase “Second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day” and sued people for using it for marketing campaigns.
The price of carnations would skyrocket around Mother’s Day, even though modifications were made to Jarvis’ original idea, with white flowers now used for deceased mothers and red or pink ones for living ones. A livid Jarvis released a press release, saying, according to the BBC, “WHAT WILL YOU DO to rout the charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites who would undermine with their greed one the finest, noblest and truest movements. and the holidays? »
She then began urging people to get rid of the flowers altogether.
Of greeting cards and sweets, she said, “A printed card means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You bring a box to Mother, then eat most of it yourself. A nice feeling.
Jarvis’s opposition to those using the day for anything other than what she intended it to be – “a day of sentiment, not profit” – has grown more vocal over the years. According to National Geographic, “She organized boycotts…and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day to raise money for charity.” When a proposal was floated to rename Mother’s Day as “Parents Day”, she vehemently opposed it.
In 1925 she was arrested for ‘disturbing the peace’ when she crashed at a convention of American war mothers, who were selling carnations on Mother’s Day and using them to raise money . Two years prior, she crashed at a retail confectionery convention.
When the flower industry offered to share the profits with her, she quickly rejected them.
Jarvis died, almost penniless and alone, in a sanitarium in 1948. According to the BBC, one of her last public activities before being admitted to the sanitarium was “going door to door in Philadelphia asking signatures to support a call for Mother’s Day to be cancelled.
Allegations have been made that Jarvis Sanitarium bills were secretly paid, at least in part, by the florist and greeting card industries. However, these reports have not been confirmed.
Jarvis never had children, but her eventual opposition to Mother’s Day was so vehement that, according to the BBC, even her extended family did not observe the day for long.
Newsletter | Click to get the best explainers of the day delivered to your inbox