My mom with her 4 princesses
Credit: Sean K. Lueck, 2012

Mother's Day is that second Sunday in May when we all find flowers and chocolates to give to our mothers.  When we are young, we make cards at home or at school to tell our mother how much we love her, and as we get older, we still get her cards and flowers, and we commemorate everything she has done for us through our lives.

But where did this holiday come from, and why has it become such a blossoming - pun intended - sales day for florists?  I didn't know the answers to these questions, myself, so I did a little research into where Mother's Day came from, and how it became the commercialized sensation that it is today!

Brutal Origins

From what I have discovered, it seems that this day was started not so much as a celebration for mothers, but a plea to end the mourning of mothers losing children to war and other tragedies.  In the 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis held Mother's Day work clubs to inform mothers on how to be more sanitary around their children in order to prevent early infant mortality.  Later in the 1870s, Julia Ward Howe created the "Mother's Day Proclomation", which called for women of the world to lobby for peace and the end of wars.  While she is best known as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", the Mother's Day Proclomation set the stage for further attempts at making this a public and revered holiday.

It was in 1908 that Ann Reeve's Jarvis' daughter, Anna, wanting to commemorate the life of her mother who had died a few years before, pushed for recognition of this day as her mother had tried before her.  She brought the idea to Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker who then celebrated the day on May 8, 1910 at the Bethany Temple Presbytarian Church in Philadelphia, PA, of which he was a founder and trustee.  It was also celebrated at the church in Grafton, WV (now known as the International Mother's Day Shrine), where Anna Jarvis lived at the time.

Through further efforts, she gained the attention of President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, and he set aside the second Sunday in May as the official day for Mother's Day.  She was recognized as the founder for the day, and she established the white carnation as the official Mother's Day flower, as well as maintaining that it be celebrated on the second Sunday in May.  To her, this was not a day to celebrate all mothers, but a day to celebrate the best mother that you have ever known - yours!

The Commercialization of Mother's Day

Anna Jarvis' idea for Mother's Day was a private celebration with your mother to honour her for all she had done for you.  However, her idea quickly became a commercial goldmine for florists, confectioners, and other gift giving outlets.  Flowers, candies, cards and chocolates became the standard gifts to bring to your mother on this day, and in it's present day, it is also customary to either make breakfast in bed for her, or take her for brunch at a restaurant.

This was against everything that Anna Jarvis had believed in when she started the campaign for Mother's Day.  She hated the commercialization of it and fought against it, threatening lawsuits, and even getting arrested for disturbing the peace.  She found purchasing greeting cards to be lazy (she thought that writing a personal letter was more in stream with her intentions of the day), and that even collecting money for charity by selling carnations was a bastardization of her goals of Mother's Day.  

In the end, Anna Jarvis stated that she regretted what she had created, as it was not what she had intended.  She died, penniless and alone in a sanitarium in 1948 at the age of 84, wishing she had never pushed for the creation of this now revered holiday.

Mother's Day today

Today, Mother's Day has spread around the world from it's humble beginnings in Grafton, WV, and is responsible for an estimated $18 billion in purchases in the US alone.  Most will buy flowers and cards, many will bring their mothers breakfast or out for brunch, and many will simply visit this most special woman in their lives.  For others, it will be a day to remember mothers who have died, and to remember how much she meant to them.

No matter what we do, how we decide to buy or create something for our mothers, it is imperative that we show her and tell her how very much she means to us, and why.  Cards are wonderful, flowers are beautiful, but actions and words are unforgettable.

For me, I will be celebrating the person who, no matter what I do or where I go, no matter how many times I forgot birthdays or didn't call or write, she still loves me and will forgive me for anything I have done!  She raised me to be a strong man and to respect others, provided me with a strong moral compass and encouraged me to use my intelligence and my imagination.  To me, she is the best mother in the world!  I hope that yours is, to you!