May 13, 2018 is Mother’s Day in the United States. With origins dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, the American version was created by Anna Jarvis in honor of her mother in 1908 and became an official holiday in 1914.
Prior to the Civil War, Jarvis’ mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia, created “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. She declared the clubs were neutral so during and after the war, they served both Union and Confederate families, becoming a unifying force in the region. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation, and became an annual event for many years.
Anna Jarvis was not the only one with this idea of celebrating motherhood. Julia Ward Howe, better known as the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, promoted a Mothers’ Peace Day beginning in 1872. As National Geographic reported, “for Howe and other antiwar activists, including Anna Jarvis’s mother, Mother’s Day was a way to promote global unity after the horrors of the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco-Prussian War.”
Another person who promoted the idea of Mother’s Day prior to Jarvis, was former football coach and University of Notre Dame faculty member Frank E. Hering. His February 7, 1904 speech, “Our Mothers and Their Importance in Our Lives”, was the first public plea for a nationwide observance of Mother’s Day. Jarvis was very possessive of the holiday, didn’t like the idea of Mother’s Day having a “father”, and later blasted Hering in an undated 1920s statement entitled “Kidnapping Mother’s Day: Will You be an Accomplice?”
Jarvis later become so disgusted at the commercialization of the holiday and charitable organizations who used the holiday as a hook to fundraise, that she spent all of her money in her quest to abolish the holiday. (Hallmark reports that 141 million Mother’s Day cards are purchased each year; for other Mother’s Day spending stats, read this.)
How do you celebrate Mother’s Day or do you think it has become too commercial? What sort of Mother’s Day gifts have you given, or received? Share your experiences our Facebook page.