The Story Behind Mother’s Day

by Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic

Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis  (Photograph by Bettmann, Corbis)

As Mother’s Day turns 100 this year, it’s known mostly as a time for brunches, gifts, cards, and general outpourings of love and appreciation.

But the holiday has more somber roots: It was founded for mourning women to remember fallen soldiers and work for peace. And when the holiday went commercial, its greatest champion, Anna Jarvis, gave everything to fight it, dying penniless and broken in a sanitarium.

It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna’s mother—held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

In the postwar years Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist strategies to unite former foes. Julia Ward Howe, for one—best known as the composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870, calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.

Around the same time, Jarvis had initiated a Mother’s Friendship Day for Union and Confederate loyalists across her state. But it was her daughter Anna who was most responsible for what we call Mother’s Day—and who would spend most of her later life fighting what it had become.

“Mother’s Day,” Not “Mothers’ Day”

Anna Jarvis never had children of her own, but the 1905 death of her own mother inspired her to organize the first Mother’s Day observances in 1908.

On May 10 of that year, families gathered at events in Jarvis’s hometown of Grafton, West Virginia—at a church now renamed the International Mother’s Day Shrine—as well as in Philadelphia, where Jarvis lived at the time, and in several other cities.

Largely through Jarvis’s efforts, Mother’s Day came to be observed in a growing number of cities and states until U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially set aside the second Sunday in May in 1914 for the holiday.

“For Jarvis it was a day where you’d go home to spend time with your mother and thank her for all that she did,” West Virginia Wesleyan’s Antolini, who wrote “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Defense of Her Mother’s Day” as her Ph.D. dissertation, said in a previous interview.

“It wasn’t to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you’ve ever known—your mother—as a son or a daughter.” That’s why Jarvis stressed the singular “Mother’s Day,” rather than the plural “Mothers’ Day,” Antolini explained.

But Jarvis’s success soon turned to failure, at least in her own eyes.

Storming Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis’s idea of an intimate Mother’s Day quickly became a commercial gold mine centering on the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards—a development that deeply disturbed Jarvis. She set about dedicating herself and her sizable inheritance to returning Mother’s Day to its reverent roots.

Jarvis incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association and tried to retain some control of the holiday. She organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day to raise funds for charities.

“In 1923 she crashed a convention of confectioners in Philadelphia,” Antolini said.

A similar protest followed two years later. “The American War Mothers, which still exists, used Mother’s Day for fund-raising and sold carnations every year,” Antolini said. “Anna resented that, so she crashed their 1925 convention in Philadelphia and was actually arrested for disturbing the peace.”

Jarvis’s fervent attempts to reform Mother’s Day continued until at least the early 1940s. In 1948 she died at 84 in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium.

“This woman, who died penniless in a sanitarium in a state of dementia, was a woman who could have profited from Mother’s Day if she wanted to,” Antolini said.

“But she railed against those who did, and it cost her everything, financially and physically.”

Mother’s Day Gifts Today: Brunch, Bouquets, Bling

Today, of course, Mother’s Day continues to roll on as an engine of consumerism.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $162.94 on mom this year, down from a survey high of $168.94 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $19.9 billion. The U.S. National Restaurant Association reports that Mother’s Day is the year’s most popular holiday for dining out.

As for Mother’s Day being a hallmark holiday, there’s no denying it, strictly speaking.

Hallmark Cards itself, which sold its first Mother’s Day cards in the early 1920s, reports that Mother’s Day is the number three holiday for card exchange in the United States, behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day—another apparent affront to the memory of the mother of Mother’s Day.

About 133 million Mother’s Day cards are exchanged annually, according to Hallmark. After Christmas, it’s the second most popular holiday for giving gifts.

Mother’s Day Gone Global

The holiday Anna Jarvis launched has spread around much of the world, though it’s celebrated with varying enthusiasm, in various ways, and on various days—though more often than not on the second Sunday in May.

In much of the Arab world, Mother’s Day is on March 21, which happens to loosely coincide with the start of spring. In Panama the day is celebrated on December 8, when the Catholic Church honors perhaps the most famous of mothers, the Virgin Mary. In Thailand mothers are honored on August 12, the birthday of Queen Sirikit, who has reigned since 1956 and is considered by many to be a mother to all Thais.

Britain’s centuries-old Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of the Christian period of Lent, began as a spring Sunday designated for people to visit their area’s main cathedral, or mother church, rather than their local parish.

Mothering Sunday church travel led to family reunions, which in turn led to Britain’s version of Mother’s Day.

 

 

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Hilda, Won’t You be My Valentine?

Hilda wants you as her Valentine

Meet Hilda, the creation of illustrator Duane Bryers and pin-up art’s best kept secret. Voluptuous in all the right places, a little clumsy but not at all shy about her figure, Hilda was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s, and achieved moderate notoriety in the 1960s.

Chicken Wontons

by: RasaMalaysia

Yield: 12 Chicken Wontons

Chicken Wontons

Photo by Cegoh/www.giant.sg

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ lb shrimp, chopped
  • ½ lb ground chicken
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 stalk scallion cut in rings
  • A dash of fish sauce
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • Dash of ground pepper
  • 12 wonton wrappers

 

For Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 TBS Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 TBS cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • Pinch of sesame seeds

 

Directions: 

  1. Mix together scallion, cornstarch, shrimp and chicken and add salt, sesame oil, pepper, and fish sauce.
  2. Wrap wontons with the wrappers. Place each wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand and add about half a tablespoon of the filling in the middle. Dip your index finger in water and trace around the outer edges of the wrapper. Then, fold and pinch edges of the wrapper and seal tightly.
  3. Deep fry in oil until golden.

I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr. (circa 1963)

Image

In 1963, Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have a Dream Speech” in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.[91]

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

“These creamy garlic mashed potatoes are so good, you can serve them plain—no butter or gravy is needed. This is the only way we prepare mashed potatoes”. —Valerie Mitchell, Olathe, Kansas

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk, warmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.
  2. Drain well. Add the butter, milk and salt; mash. Stir in cheese.

Nutritional Facts 

1 cup: 190 calories, 5g fat (3g saturated fat), 14mg cholesterol, 275mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 4g fiber), 8g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fat.