Anna Jarvis Story of Mother’s Day

  This Sunday, on May 10th, people in most parts of the world will try to say “Thank you” to our mothers for all the things they do, by setting aside an entire day to honor them.  Personally, I don’t think a single day every year is enough of a thank you, but you work with what you have, I guess. 

      As far as most of us are concerned, the “history of mother’s day” is nothing more than a collected memory of all the years we forgot to buy Mom flowers.  But Mother’s Day has an actual history behind it, too.  The modern incarnation of the holiday, as most of us know it, was created by a woman from the U.S. state of West Virginia, named Anna Jarvis.  Oddly enough, one of the co-founders of Father’s Day, regularly known as the calendar “compliment” to Mother’s Day, was from Fairmont, West Viriginia: a town fewer than twenty miles away from Grafton.

      Ms. Jarvis’s own mother died in 1905, and two years later, on May 12th, Anna held a public memorial, to honor her mother’s memory.  From that small memorial service, Jarvis began holding annual days of honor for all mothers, and she embarked on a tireless campaign to have Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday.  In 1914, she succeeded in her goal: Mother’s Day became a nationally recognized holiday.

      But if we think that by buying chocolates and flowers we’re honoring the founder of Mother’s Day, then we are dead wrong.  Anna Jarvis, as a matter of fact, went from being the founder of Mother’s Day, to its most vocal public opponent.  See, Jarvis became disgusted at what she perceived to be a materialistic, and over-commercialized, attitude behind the celebration of Mother’s Day.  Quite simply, Anna Jarvis felt that a day she had created in memory of her dead mother had been turned into yet another excuse for shop owners to drag even more money out of consumers. 

      Jarvis became so disillusioned with the holiday she founded, in fact, that she formed the Mother’s Day International Association, an organization dedicated to fighting the commercializing of Mother’s Day.  Jarvis and her sister, Ellsinore, became so wrapped up in their campaign against Mother’s Day that they were both died penniless, having squandered every penny of a shared inheritance in support of their cause. 

       It’s a little ironic, then, that after all of Jarvis’s concerns and misgivings, that Mother’s Day isn’t nearly as commercialized as some other similar holidays.  While there are, of course, the expected cropping up of roadside flower shops every April, and signs plastered to every store front window reading, “Don’t forget Mother’s Day!”, the holiday has, at its core, become a day of honor—much the way Jarvis originally intended it to be. 

      Think about it: yes, you’ll probably buy your mother a gift this Mother’s Day; if nothing else, you’ll buy her some flowers that curiously seem more expensive this time of year than any other.  But above all else, you’ll spend Mother’s Day going out of your way to make sure that Mom knows how much you care about her.  And you, I, and everyone else knows that sure, Mom may like a shimmery diamond necklace; but nothing makes her happier than getting a big hug and kiss from her son or daughter, and a warm, heartfelt “Thank you.”