The founder of the observance of Mother’s Day at the national level regretted it and called for its abolition

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Mother’s First Day in America Born of Painful Grief

I spent most of my life not suspecting any controversy about Mother’s Day. Other than Woody Allen, he didn’t know anyone who didn’t love his mother.

It is the fifth commandment for Protestants and the fourth for Catholics, to honor our mothers. And the Book of Proverbs tells Protestants, Catholics, and Jews alike not to stray from its teaching. It may be a bit risky if your mother has strayed from her own mother’s teachings, but I suppose you are still supposed to honor her.

Judeo-Christian religions are not the only ones that honor mothers. The Confucian concept of “filial piety” demanded respect for parents in that tradition. This was a big problem when missionaries tried to export Buddhism to China. They found it difficult to explain how celibacy (no grandchildren), voluntary disengagement from the material world (futility), and a mendicant priesthood (begging) would not dishonor Chinese mothers.

Modern Mother’s Day celebrations vary from country to country. I remember that when I was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone 40 years ago, the contiguous Latin American republic celebrated Mother’s Day on December 8, which is the (Catholic) Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It is true that Panama was very Catholic, but that does not fully explain their celebration of Mother’s Day on December 8, because they could have chosen the Feast of the Nativity (the birth of Mary) in September, or Christmas (when Mary gave birth for the first time). . By choosing December 8, Panama recognized that Maria became a mother at the time of conception.

The origins of our own annual observance on the second Sunday in May are in dispute.

Mary Towles Sasseen, an educator from Henderson, Kentucky, copyrighted a book in 1893 that guided teachers on how to conduct Mother’s Day celebrations at school. Together with her sister, she helped organize the first documented observance of Mother’s Day six years earlier in schools in Springfield, Ohio.

On feb. On October 7, 1904, retired Notre Dame football coach Frank Hering spoke at a national convention of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Indianapolis. His theme was “Our mothers and their importance in our lives.” Supporters say this was the “first public speech in favor of making Mother’s Day a national holiday.” Hering reportedly continued to speak on behalf of a national observance for the next decade. “

Sasseen also traveled extensively to promote the idea, but died in 1906 before it could gain approval.

Enter the Jarvis Women of Grafton, West Virginia. Ann Reeves Jarvis organized workshops for mothers in the 1850s to address community sanitation and public health issues, with a special emphasis on infant and maternal mortality. In the 1860s, Grafton’s mothers came together to tend to the wounds of Civil War soldiers from both armies.

West Virginia men were sharply divided before, during, and after the Civil War. Reconciliation between male victors and losers seemed unlikely.

But Ann organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other post-war events to promote peace among antagonistic neighbors.

Ann raised a modern daughter, Anna, who left her small hometown to seek her fortune in a big city (Philadelphia). Think of the character of Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Ann Marie in That girl. She never married, never had children of her own. But when Ann died in 1905, her daughter Anna was very homesick for the mother she had left behind.

Two years later, her grief led her to campaign for the creation of a national Mother’s Day. On May 10, 1908, Mother’s Day celebrations debuted at Grafton Church, where Ann had taught Sunday School, and in the auditorium of the Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia.

Anna did not make the return trip to her hometown, but sent 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, with instructions that Grafton’s sons and daughters should wear them to honor their own mothers and to represent the purity of love. of a mother. .

Anna was able to work full time on her campaign, sponsored by HJ Heinz and John Wanamaker. There was resistance in the United States Senate. But Anna won the endorsement of the World Sunday School Association. He spoke at florist conventions and accepted their donations.

Eventually, Congress passed the national observance and President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. The first national celebration took place on the second Sunday in May 1914. The celebration became popular and it was a good time to be in the carnation business.

Business was going so well, in fact, that Anna began to have doubts. The commercialization of his altruistic gesture began to make her stomach sick. He turned against his former allies and patrons.

He denounced the candy makers, florists and greeting card makers as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, mobsters, kidnappers and termites who would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”

When she tried to mark the white carnation with the text “Mother’s Day”, the Florists Telegraph Delivery association concluded that she felt cheated by her court. She was offered a commission on white carnations, but this infuriated her even more.

She wrote that she wanted Mother’s Day to be a “day of feeling, not profit.”

He was angered when a commemorative Postal Service stamp included a vase of carnations in the frame with the famous painting of Whistler’s Mother, because he saw it as a malicious advertisement for the flower industry.

The greeting cards are not rated higher than the carnations in Anna’s book. “A corny and insincere printed card or a ready-made telegram means nothing,” he wrote, “except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.” She observed that “any mother would rather have a line of her son’s or daughter’s worst doodle than any fancy greeting card.”

She was fierce in her personal claim to the vacation. When Henderson’s group planned a ceremony to recognize her along with Sasseen and Hering, Jarvis attacked the other two and threatened legal action against any rival who used the Mother’s Day name or created Mother’s Day-related activities. . I doubt that Ann would have been honored by Anna’s attitude at this point.

Anna went on to disrupt charity events selling carnations and was arrested for disorderly conduct. She criticized Eleanor Roosevelt for participating in Mother’s Day fundraisers for charities that sought to reduce infant and maternal mortality, a cause near and dear to Ann.

Anna finally went door-to-door in Philadelphia gathering signatures on a petition to rescind Mother’s Day. A penniless old woman, bitter, childless and single, she became a recluse and a hoarder. It was a long process, but obviously and I had finally lost my mind.

He spent his last years in a Pennsylvania asylum, where he may have thought he had no friends, but he was not. The thick-skinned but grateful florists subsidized his stay at the nursing home until he died in 1948.

There is a lot to learn from Anna Jarvis. Your criticisms of marketing deserve our serious consideration, not only with regard to Mother’s Day, but also Father’s Day, July 4, Memorial Day, and especially Christmas.

He was right that mothers yearn not for Hallmark Cards or telegrams or even carnations, but for the companionship and affection of their own children and grandchildren. Time, they want. And that, few of us are willing to bestow. Others may appropriate posthumous rhetorical flourishes and sentimental gestures. Quality time with your mom while she’s still kicking? No one can take that away from you.

It doesn’t have to be the second Sunday in May. Mom will be happy to see you the other 364 days of the year. But don’t put it off. Later it can slide into never, as it happened with Ann and Anna Jarvis. Consider yourself lucky every day to visit her.

After she is gone and you cannot visit her anymore, the Ten Commandments do not expire. You still need to honor your mother, so that you can live a long time in the land that God has given you. It’s embarrassing that your kids know more about Beyonce and Rihanna than they do about their own grandmother. And that shame falls on you. Honor your mother.

Tell and retell your story within your family, during car trips, at fast food tables. Eyes can roll. Your children will survive the annoyance, the impatience. They may not survive uprooting and abandonment to a hostile and toxic youth culture. They need to know that they cam from somewhere. Came from somebody. They do not belong to their peers, nor do their peers belong to them. This is the lesson that Anna Jarvis learned too late.

by Bart Stinson

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