With Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, employees who work in the floral industry are making arrangements at break neck speed. People who work at restaurants are preparing for a day of insanity, and folks in the greeting card and chocolate industries have anticipated peak sales.
But knowing what a juggernaut of commercialism Mother’s Day has become would cause the holiday’s founder Anna Jarvis to roll over in her grave. And in fact, Jarvis – who created the holiday after her mother’s death - spent more time denouncing the holiday than she spent creating it after losing control to corporate interests.
Here’s a brief timeline to catch you up to speed:
•As a young girl, Jarvis overheard her mother tell her Sunday school class that she wished for a day to honor mothers.
•In 1905 Jarvis’ mother – who cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War – died. During the war Jarvis’ mother formed Mothers Friendship Day to foster peace between Union and Confederate mothers and was well known for her charity work. Jarvis was overwhelmed with kind letters she received from family and friends after her mother’s death.
•In 1907 in Philadelphia, Jarvis - who worked in the advertising department of an insurance company - began her crusade to have National Mother’s Day recognized around the world through an aggressive campaign.
•In 1908 Jarvis sent 500 white carnations – her mother’s favorite flower – to a Mother’s Day event that was held at the Sunday school where her mother taught. Jarvis wanted the carnation to be worn on Mother’s Day to honor mothers and to represent the purity of a mother’s love.
•In 1909 Mother’s Day services were held at over 40 states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. The white carnation was worn at these events.
•Despite harsh opposition from many U.S. Senators, Jarvis’ persistent campaigning and the increasing popularity of Mother’s Day events led to the adoption of Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914, to be observed the second Sunday in May.
But like Frankenstein giving life to a monster he eventually came to abhor, the adoption of the holiday marked the beginning of the end of the day’s sanctity for Jarvis.
White carnations became a must-have and led to profiteering by floral companies. After a few years the floral, greeting card and chocolate companies had their claws wrapped so tightly around the holiday that Jarvis would never be able to loosen their grip.
Jarvis (who incidentally never married and never had children) came to resent the holiday and began a campaign to have it abolished. She was arrested for protesting the sale of carnations and - as history has it - after seeing a “Mother’s Day Salad” on a tearoom menu, Jarvis ordered it for the sole purpose of dumping it on the floor and stomping it. She sued powerful leaders and went door-to-door collecting petition signatures.
"I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," Jarvis said, going on to call greeting cards with printed messages "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."
“A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing,” she said, “except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”
Jarvis battled the holiday until 1948 when she died in a mental institution, indigent, blind and partially deaf.
So this Mother’s Day lets honor the true spirit of the day as Jarvis had intended it. Forgo the Hallmark card for something you write yourself, and forget about the expensive gifts. Just tell your mom what she means to you and tell her how much you appreciate what she’s sacrificed in her own life to make yours better - Because, in the wise words of Jarvis, “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.”
- Happy Mother’s Day
from the Progress