Mother’s Day has always been a day that I would prefer to hibernate through. I was raised by a toxic single parent, who put more negative thoughts into my head than good ones. Most people get at least one good parent, but I got gypped on both sides. Don’t get me wrong, i’m grateful my Mom had me, but there is more to being a mother than having a kid and keeping it fed and clothed.
Every year on this day I see my friends celebrating great women who turned from Mothers to best friends, and shaped their lives. I’m always envious and can’t imagine what that must be like.
Seeing my local stores covered in cards and balloons for this holiday has also made me wonder what it’s origins actually are. Upon doing some research I found out that the even the creator of Mother’s Day hated how commercialized it became so quickly.
So before you buy your Hallmark card this year, check out the actually history of how Mother’s Day came to be.
In 1905 in a woman named Anna Jarvis began campaigning for a day to honor her totally awesome Mom who had died. She said Moms are “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. In Anna’s case-her Mom sounded pretty cool. She was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers in The Civil War.
In 1908 the first Mothers Day was celebrated, and due to Anna’s campaigning it was recognized as an official holiday in many states in 1910.
She chose the white carnation as a symbol for the day, stating “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.”
In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation officially creating Mother’s Day. It was to be on the second Sunday in May, “as a national holiday to honor mothers.” Anna was very specific, noting that the word Mother’s should “be a singular possessive for each individual to honor their Mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all Mothersin the world.”
Jarvis had won her battle! But she was not a happy camper to see Hallmark and other companies selling Mothers Day cards and turning profits around the 1920’s. In fact, she was so pissed by the misinterpretation and exploitation of her holiday that she tried to rescind the holiday.
She fought hard for many years against the confection, flower and greeting card industry.
Jarvis’s intention for the holiday had been for people to appreciate and honor mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude, rather than buying gifts and pre-made crap. She became a total badass and organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to try to stop the commercialization. One time she crashed a candymakers’ convention in Philadelphia.
Two years later she protested at a confab of the American War Mothers, which raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother’s Day, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. She would also protest in smaller ways, like ordering Mother’s Day salads, paying for them and dumping them on the floor.
Her battle drained her financially and emotionally over the course of her life. Anna eventually died in 1948 at age 84, without every having married or having children.
As Mother’s Day evolved in the USA, more countries started adapting the holiday. It is celebrated on many different dates, but one of Anna’s traditions that still happens all over the world is the giving of flowers-specifically white carnations.
So this Mother’s Day, in honor of it’s founder and her fight, consider not buying corporate cards and gifts altogether Write a letter in place of a Hallmark card, or buy flowers from a local small business instead of FTD.
The mother of Mother’s Day will surely approve.