You know I can’t help myself, right? I’m simply a master at how to “win friends and influence people.” Alas, I am compelled to share the truth about Mother’s Day, thereby wilting the flowers at all those mother-daughter teas and destroying precious moments for families everywhere.
Apologies, as usual…
Mother’s Day in America actually began with Anna Jarvis in 1905, who wished to create a holiday in honor of her own mother, who had worked tirelessly to nurse wounded Civil War soldiers on both sides of the battle. She had created mother’s work parties to address public health issues and to minister to the needs of the poor.
Anna Jarvis campaigned for this national day of recognition of her own mother amid great resistance. Many people thought it was an absurd idea, but eventually in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the first Mother’s Day Proclamation.
Immediately Anna Jarvis began to regret her campaign. The holiday was quickly commercialized and rather than a day of mothers gathering together to work and improve their communities as her own mother had done, it became a sentimental thing. Hallmark got in on the action and started selling preprinted cards with endearing comments on them, florists and candy makers soon followed suit.
Anna Jarvis was furious and began to campaign to get Mother’s Day rescinded. She organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits. She crashed the candymakers convention in Philadelphia. She got herself arrested for protesting the selling of carnations.
“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.” -Anna Jarvis
Anna Jarvis dedicated her entire life and every dime she had to trying to get what she had once campaigned so hard for, rescinded. She never married and she never had children. She was forced to go live with her sister and was eventually placed in an asylum until her death.
That is the tragic tale of mother’s day, a pandora’s box of a holiday whose very founder went broke and drove herself mad trying to stop it.