by Willa Condy
Every year we hurry to find the perfect gift or card for our mothers on Mother’s Day. In Canada and the US Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. In the United Kingdom it was originally called Mothering Day and is on the 4th Sunday in Lent. In the UK they have been observing Mothering Sunday since the 16th Century and was originally a religious event three weeks before Easter to honour the Virgin Mary.
During World War 2 American and Canadian troops celebrated Mother’s Day, feeling that their mothers deserved the honour as their children fought for freedom. Mother’s Day started to spread across Europe and Mothering Sunday morphed into Mother’s Day in the UK.
Who was responsible for the creation of Mother’s Day? There are more than one culprit who worked hard to create this day of honouring mothers.
In towns that have Aeries of Eagles the women’s auxiliary will be found making sure that the first child born on or after Mother’s Day receives very special gifts. There is a special reason that the Eagles take such an interest in Mother’s Day and celebrate the Mother’s Day Baby.
On Feb. 7, 1904, Frank E. Hering, a faculty member at Notre Dame and the national president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles gave a speech. His speech, “Our Mothers and Their Importance in Our Lives,” was the first public plea for a nationwide observance of Mother’s Day. He started people talking about honouring their mothers and the idea slowly caught on.
Hering was influenced when he observed a class busily writing postcards in a class at Notre Dame. He asked the professor what the class was writing notes to their mother. The notes got him considering how important mothers were to children.
Hering may be the father of Mother’s Day but Anna Jarvis was also very important in it’s creation and many credit her with creating Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day was first observed in Grafton, W.Va., in 1907, when Anna Jarvis held a ceremony honouring her mother, Ann, who had died three years earlier. She decorated the church with her mother’s favourite flowers – white carnations.
The idea caught on and in 1908 Mother’s Day Service was held in both Grafton and in Philadelphia, Pa. All who attended wore carnations. White for those mothers that had passed away, red for those mothers who were still alive. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Mother’s Day proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday.
By 1911 Mother’s Day had begun to be celebrated in several states and Canadian Provinces on the second Sunday of May.
In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 10th as Mother’s Day. A joint resolution was put forward by Congress and Wilson stating the important role that mothers have. The second Sunday in May was designated as Mother’s Day in the US.
In 1925 a ceremony was held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Society of War Mothers in a special Mother’s Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Herring was introduced as the “Father of Mother’s Day,” an honour that the former Eagle President was very proud to accept.
Anna Jarvis was upset at the commercialization of Mother’s Day. When the price of carnations started to increase Jarvis was not amused. By 1920 she was telling people do not buy flowers. She was upset when charities started to fundraise using Mother’s Day, even if they claimed to be doing it to help poor mothers.
Jarvis never made a dime off of Mother’s Day. She was very principled and felt the day should be used to honour mothers. That led to her launching lawsuits to defend the day, even copywriting “Second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day” before the holiday was a national holiday.
It was said in a Newsweek article in 1944 that she had 33 pending lawsuits.
Jarvis felt that the day was becoming too commercial and railed against florists and greeting cards stating “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.”
Jarvis became increasingly bitter going so far as to go door to door in Philadelphia trying to get Mother’s Day rescinded. This was one of the last things Jarvis did in public.
Jarvis ended up broke and living in Marshall Square Sanitarium, a now-closed mental asylum in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She died on November 24, 1948. The holiday that she fought so hard to create and then rejected continues on, thanks to both Jarvis and Hering.
Willa Condy was born and raised in the West Kootenay. She is married, lives in Trail with her “better half” and their dog Roxy. Willa is part of the baby boom and loves photography, music, writing and having fun. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org