Mother Day was created to honor mothers who had passed away. And the woman who created Mother’s Day regretted what it had become
“On May 8th, tiny breakfast-in-bed makers and last-minute Hallmark customers across the U.S. will observe the ninety-eighth official national celebration of Mother’s Day. Most of us are now hip to the commercial, agenda-bolstering holiday; the supposedly meaningful family occasion is the potpourri-scented cash cow that comes to pasture for florists and greeting-card companies every May. But no one was more horrified by the oft-misplaced point of Mother’s Day than the woman who created it.
When Anna Jarvis’ mother died on the second Sunday of May in 1905, she was devastated. Mrs. Jarvis had devoted much of her adult life to educating other mothers about health and sanitation and in 1868 held the first Mother’s Friendship Day to unite families broken apart by the Civil War. Anna vowed to honor her mother’s memory by turning Mother’s Day into a national holiday.
Showing the same determination that marked her mother’s service work, the well-educated Anna dispatched a flotilla of letters to ministers and politicians around the country, eventually buying the house next door just to hold her correspondence. And in 1914, the pertinacious Miss Jarvis saw President Woodrow Wilson decree the second Sunday of every May the United States’ official Mother’s Day.
But quickly thereafter, Anna Jarvis became outraged by the liberties people were taking with her holiday – and as we’ve already established, Miss Jarvis was nothing if not single-minded. Florists began up-charging for carnations, so Jarvis organized a boycott. When the American War Mothers held their own “Mothers’ Day” celebration in 1932, horrifically misplacing the apostrophe (Jarvis, who had no children herself, had decreed in 1908 that the holiday should not ever become a pluralistic “Mothers’ Day,” in which we’d all honor all mothers, but always remain “Mother’s Day,” on which each of us would honor only our own), Miss Jarvis was charged with disorderly conduct for bum-rushing the event. And when some infidels took it upon themselves to add a “happy” to the sentiment – as in “Happy Mother’s Day!” – Miss Jarvis threatened them with legal action. As far as Anna Jarvis was concerned, there was nothing “happy” about what had happened to a day intended for personal remembrance, and so she spent the rest of her life attempting to dismantle the institution she had created.”