It has been said that holidays like Mother’s Day are manufactured celebrations, created to sell cards and gifts. It is not really true that Mother’s Day was created to boost commerce, but that’s not to say that the evolution didn’t cause a commotion, especially by its own creator.
Holidays like our American Mother’s Day have been celebrated globally for centuries. There were festivals in Egypt and Rome honoring the goddesses like Isis, Cybele, and Rhea. European celebrations of the Virgin Mary expanded in the 1600s to include all mothers with a celebration called Mothering Day. The Mother’s Day as we know it today in America was established by a woman named Anna Jarvis. Her mother, named Ann Jarvis, had attempted to establish Mothers Work Clubs in the late 1860s, meant to help clean cities and tend wounded Civil War soldiers. After the war, she established a Mother’s Friendship Day to unite families from both sides, North and South.
Ann’s death devastated Anna, who began what has become our modern Mother’s Day. She wanted it to be “Mother’s Day” (singular), rather than the plural “Mothers’ Day,” so that each family could focus on their own mothers and not all mothers everywhere. It was meant to be a day to spend time with your mother, to thank her for all that she had done for you. Jarvis campaigned heavily for Mother’s Day to become a national holiday, finally succeeding when Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it so in 1914. The carnation became the symbol for the holiday, simply because it was Ann Jarvis’ favorite flower.
In Anna Jarvis’ eyes, what was meant to be an intimate family celebration, the day soon became too commercialized. Almost immediately, stores and florists began to capitalize on Mother’s Day, which infuriated Jarvis. Nine years after it was declared a national holiday, she began crusading against the day she, herself, created. She held boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and was even arrested in her efforts to stop what she saw as profiteering. She was very vocal about the purchasing of greeting cards, saying it was a sign that someone was too lazy to write a proper letter. Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life and her entire fortune protesting the commercialization of an event that she meant to be pure and sincere.
The idea of “mother” and “mothering” has evolved to include siblings, grandparents, friends, and other loved ones who raise and nurture us to adulthood and beyond. Mother’s Day is a moment to tell our own mothers and mother figures, “thank you,” for all they have given.
THANK YOU to all the people out there who have nurtured us over the years—it takes a village.
P.S. Thank you to our team members, friends, and colleagues (past and present) who shared the beautiful photos above with us.