Mother’s Day: History and Hijack

Did you know that before Mother’s Day was hijacked by commercialism, it had a different meaning; a purpose of peace and a sentiment of gratitude?

Julia Ward Howe, an activist, writer and poet (“Battle Hymm of the Republic”) first suggested the idea of an official mother’s day celebration dedicated to peace.  She wrote a passionate appeal to women urging them to rise against war in 1870.

Mother’s Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” [Read More]

Julia advocated tirelessly for an official celebration and declaration of Mothers Day.  Her idea spread, but was later replaced by Anna Jarvis’s drive to fulfill her mother’s desire.

Anna Jarvis’s mother, Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis was an activist and social worker.  She use to express her desire that all mothers, living and dead, be celebrated for the contributions they made.  Hence, Anna Jarvis’s inspiration for a day to honor mothers.

In 1905 Anna began passing out carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, at the church service in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother.  Later she and her supporters wrote letters to powerful people lobbying for the official declaration of Mothers Day holiday.  Their hard work paid off.  By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union and on May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

By the early 1920s, Hallmark and other retailers started selling Mother’s Day cards.  Anna became so disillusioned by the exploitation that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother’s Day.  Her intention was for  a personal acknowledgment of gratitude and love.

How can you personally acknowledge your mother today?

I remember trying to buy my mom a card and reading so many that didn’t apply.  I was younger then and still resentful that my relationship with my mom wasn’t the picture perfect image displayed in the pre-made cards.  She hadn’t always been fun, loving or encouraging.  In fact, quite the contrary.  I often felt criticized, not good enough, unable to measure up.  Our home was loud and challenging, with a lot of disappointment and unmet needs.  And that negative volume seemed to drown out the warm, positive experiences that did occur on occasion.

Now after years of healing and forgiving – which is another way of saying acceptance and compassion – I know my mother loved me as best she could.  I say that with gratitude not judgment.  To the very fiber of my being, I humbly understand now what it is to love a child, do your best, and still feel as though it’s not enough.  But you know what…it is!

Love is always enough.