Happy Mother’s Day … and where it all began …

May 12, 2013

Bits and Pieces, For Mum

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums today and look,  if I could quickly pen a floral Hallmark-suitable verse to insert here I would. I really would, but alas it’s Sunday morning and there just ‘aint no time for rhyme ;)

Now, whilst lazing in bed enjoying the paper, cuppa and brekky adoringly delivered by your wee lovely ones (I did get that right, didn’t I?) you may have pondered the origins of this fabulous day celebrating all things Mum?? Yes? Of course you did.

Well surprise, or no surprise, the whole Mother’s Day show was founded as a way of acknowledging the hard work and efforts of all MOMS … and here is the tale of its humble beginnings …

Mothers in the United States, and subsequently around the world, have been honored on Mother’s Day for more than 100 years now thanks to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, considered to be the “founder” of Mother’s Day. Thanks, Anna!!  But to be totally honest, the popular Mother’s Day concept isn’t entirely the invention of Anna Jarvis because a few decades earlier, in 1870, another US of A Mom, Julia Ward Howe, first established a Mother’s Day celebration but it didn’t really take off at the time.

Ta-da ….  enter Anna Jarvis and her attempt to honor her mother, and all mothers, and as a result of her efforts from 1908 Mother’s Day was born (sorry for the pun!). Mums, flower farmers and greeting card printers from around the globe salute you, Anna, more than a century later!

Anna Jarvis was born in West Virginia in 1864 to Ann Marie and Granville Jarvis. She was one of eleven children and I guess there is now no doubt as to why Anna’s mother deserved a special day of celebration indeed. Whoa, eleven! The Jarvis family moved from Webster to Grafton when Anna was an infant and she grew up to attend the Augusta Female Academy and earn her teaching credentials.

As one of her mother’s eleven children, Anna often heard her mother pray that God would lead someone to found a memorial mother’s day to commemorate a mother’s tireless and daily service to her family and humanity. Twelve at the time, the words overheard by Anna heard struck a chord within her and at her mother’s graveside in 1905, Anna Jarvis promised to work toward realising her mother’s prayer. A day of thanks and praise for mothers everywhere.

After trying to honor her mother’s wishes, Jarvis found that adult children were not very forthcoming in honoring their own mothers. This made her more resolute in establishing Mother’s Day because she longed to see children of all ages value the efforts of their mother. By 1907, Jarvis began aggressively campaigning for the establishment of a national Mother’s Day. She made practical progress in her own church where she passed out white carnations to all of the attending mothers and by 1908 the holiday was also celebrated in Philadelphia, where Anna had moved to.

The push to establish a national holiday to honor mothers gathered momentum as Jarvis’ supporters began writing letters and Jarvis herself spoke publicly on many occasions. By 1909, forty-five American states were observing Mother’s Day. It was celebrated by giving mothers white carnations, which Jarvis said represented the purity of a mother’s heart. (Hmmm, would white diamonds have a similar representation? Just a thought) The holiday continued to increase in popularity until President Woodrow Wilson formally announced the second Sunday in May as the national day for Mums.

In the end, however, the holiday that was meant to encourage children to spend time with their mother and make her feel special actually turned out very differently. Dollar signs appeared and a day of celebration morphed into a marketer’s dream – subsequently Jarvis became quite disillusioned with the commercialization of the special day that she had worked so hard to make a reality.

Anna Jarvis died in 1948 at the age of 84 and her birthplace in Webster, West Virginia, stands as a memorial to her, the mother of Mother’s Day.

Is Mother’s Day a special day for you and your family? Do you have any interesting family traditions to celebrate motherhood in your family?

I’d love you to share your Mum story here – the Aussie Mums keeping it real series is launching soon. It’d be great to have you join in.

photo credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina} via photopin cc

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