As I prepared to write about Mother’s Day, I found that I wanted to know more about how it came about. We’ve been researching various holidays lately and have been fascinated by the obscure, ridiculous, and sometimes comical days that have made it to the level of “national days of”. I found a long article speaking of the history throughout the ages and finally culminating in what we now celebrate as Mother’s Day. I hope you’ll find this interesting as well.
The practice of honoring Motherhood is rooted in antiquity and the rites often had strong symbolic and spiritual overtones, which celebration of goddesses and motherly symbols rather than actual mothers. The personal, human touch, to Mother’s Day is a relatively new celebration.
Julia Ward Howe proposed a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Although she wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic , she had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers. She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of
charity, mercy and patience.
“We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have of ten forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.
The path to the national holiday we know now was rocky. Julia Ward Howe’s celebration stayed at a local level in only 18 cities, and petered out when she quit paying the bills. But the Seed was planted. Anna M Jarvis, picked up the baton in 190 after her mother Anna Reeves Jarvis died, when she petitioned her church to set aside a Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. It took her another 6 years of full-time lobbying and the backing of the World’s Sunday School Association when finally in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
That wasn’t the end however. When the holiday began to be commercialized, first by the floral industry, and then by others, she was vociferously opposed to the misuse of the holiday, even going to far as to sue to stop one event.
In opposition to the flower industry’s exploitation of the holiday, Jarvis wrote, “What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?” Despite her efforts, flower sales on Mother’s Day continued to grow. Florist’s Review wrote, “Miss Jarvis was completely squelched.”
Anna Jarvis died in 1948, blind, poor and childless. Jarvis would never know that it was, ironically, The Florist’s Exchange that had anonymously paid for her care.
Read the full article