Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Mother of Mother's Day

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the observance of Mother’s Day. While Anna Jarvis is credited with the observance, Julia Ward Howe was the first to suggest a national observance.

Anna Jarvis was known as the Mother of Mother’s Day. She never married nor had children. Ms. Jarvis was inspired by her own mother, Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, who expressed a desire to pay tribute to all mothers, both living and dead, for all their contributions. Anna’s mother was a community activist and a social worker. Most noted were her efforts to heal the divide between north and central West Virginia after the Civil War by organizing Mothers’ Friendship Day. In her community she fought for improved sanitation. For 22 years she taught Sunday School at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church. She was a popular public speaker, uncommon for a woman in those days. When she died in 1905, the church bells tolled 72 times in her honor.

After her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis became more resolved in establishing a Mother’s Day. She distributed white carnations during a church service at the West Virginia church. She chose white carnations because carnations were her mother’s favorite flower, and white because she felt it represented the purity of a mother’s love. She and other supporters lobbied for an official observance of Mother’s Day. West Virginia was the first state to recognize it as a holiday. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

This should have pleased Anna Jarvis, but instead, the observances upset her. She argued that Mother’s Day had turned into a commercialized event. She became notorious for her criticism of those who purchased greeting cards and accused them of being to lazy to write personal letters to “the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Before her death in 1948 Jarvis publicly protested a Mother’s Day celebration in New York City and was arrested for disturbing the peace. She was bitter and angry about what the Mother’s Day observance had become. She said she “wished [I] had never started the day because it became so out of control.”

In your writings this week, think about things you were initially passionate about, but in the end did not turn out as you intended. Maybe as in Jarvis’ case, things got out of control. You might want to start with a freewrite with “I am passionate about…” or “I want…” or “I wish…” Another suggestion is to freewrite about things going out of control. Freewrite for at least fifteen minutes and see where it takes you. As always…have fun with it!

Joyce Maynard, one of my favorite authors wrote a touching essay on Mother's Day. Here's the link: http://www.joycemaynard.com/home.shtml
[Note: Scroll midway down the page until you see "Letter From Joyce.]


Consuelo said...

What a beautiful story about the origins of Mother's Day. It was particularly touching because this was my first Mother's Day without my mother. I understand Anna Jarvis' frustration with the commercializatin of the day. When your mom is gone, you have no mother to send flowers to. The joy of the memories of her presence sustain you through that day and each day following. Just a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article! Mother's Day definitely has become too commercialized. Our family uses it as a day to get together without gifts. The real pleasure is being with your children and/or grandchildren. Jarvis was right to start Mother's Day, but I fully understand her being upset about the direction it took.

Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star/Gale

Lois said...

I love history lessons. There is so much that can be learned.
thank you for your great blog.

R. M. Ziegler said...

Dear Consuelo,
I am so sorry for your loss. I appreciate all your kind comments. Best wishes...

R. M. Ziegler said...

Dear Jacqueline,
What a lovely way to celebrate Mother's Day. Anna Jarvis would be pleased.
Best wishes...

R. M. Ziegler said...

Dear Lois,
Thank you for your lovely comments. Best wishes...