Mother’s Day was started by a mother
Of course! After all, they do know best!
BY: JEFFREY STITES
Anna Jarvis was moved after her own mother’s death in 1905 to promote a day set aside to honor mothers for their dedication to and sacrifice for their children.
Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, had actually begun the process right after the Civil War with Mother’s Friendship Days designed to help heal the divide left in her home state of West Virginia between veterans of the Union and Confederacy, but they failed to catch on in the long term. Anna Jarvis, who remained unmarried and never became a mother herself, worked to see her mom’s idea become widely accepted.
She won the backing of John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia Department store owner, and in May of 1908 the first official Moth- er’s Day celebration took place in a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day saw thousands turn out at Wa- namaker’s department store to celebrate as well. After an enthusiastic letter writing campaign, Jarvis’ Mother’s Day began to be officially recognized by several states, beginning with West Virginia in 1910.
Jarvis’ original Mother’s Days involved a church service and the wearing of a carnation as a tribute. Children were encouraged to write personal notes to their mothers expressing their love and thanks. By 1914 Mother’s Day, and Jarvis, had caught the attention of the White House and Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official United States holiday signing a joint resolution of the US House and Sen- ate and issuing a Proclamation reading in part, “Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby di- rect the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
Not bad for a woman who wasn’t a mother herself in a time before women had secured the right to vote, right? But then this happy little story takes a bit of an ironic turn. By the 1920s, florists and oth- er purveyors of gifts had grasped Moth- er’s Day as a wonderful sales opportunity. This bothered Jarvis, who saw her day of remembrance becoming, in her view, over-commercialized. She was particularly upset with Hallmark’s brisk business in Mother’s Day cards replacing children’s handwritten and personal notes. She became a vocal opponent of Mother’s Day, advocating for its removal from the official US holiday calendar and even once get- ting arrested protesting her own holiday in front of a florist shop.
But in the end Jarvis lost and retailers won and today Mother’s Day represents over $16 billion in sales, making it the second biggest spending holiday in the United States, after Christmas. According to Hallmark, over 141 million Mother’s Day cards are purchased each year. Mother’s Day alone accounts for 25% of annual US flower sales. We also spend $3.1 billion taking our moms out to eat. See, accord- ing to the US Census there are 82.5 million moms in America, and we love them lots.
So, how do we show our love, admiration and thankfulness? Cards and flowers and dinner are great, I mean $16 billion can’t be wrong, right? But surely we can come up with something a little out of the box, can’t we? One thing we can’t put in a box, and that is more valuable than money, is our time. Simply spending time with mom is probably a pretty good bet if we want to make her feel appreciated.
If you are lucky enough to have been given an open-ended assignment by your editor, like me, tell your mom, Janice Stites, right in Southport Magazine how much you appreciate her and what a great example she’s set as a parent and as a person. I love you Mom!
As long as the springtime weather co- operates, how about a simple trip to the beach? If sand isn’t mom’s thing, there’s always Brunswick Town State Historic Site and its wonderful walkway along the Cape Fear River. For a more urban experience, you can take mom on a nice stroll around beautiful downtown Southport or even downtown Wilmington’s River Walk (both places where you can grab a nice glass of wine or do a little shopping while you’re at it.) Speaking of shopping, the outlets around Myrtle Beach are always an option as well.
If the weather turns iffy, there’s always the movies, museums, galleries or simply staying home and pampering her. Or if mom lives far from here, a phone call is definitely in order. The trick is spending time on your one and only mother. She de- serves it, right?