Mother's Day Origins
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, believed that the holiday should not be commercialized with material gifts. Instead, she believed that the greatest present any mother could receive on her special day was a personal visit from her children. If a physical visit was not possible, a heartfelt, handwritten letter would suffice. Jarvis's vision for Mother's Day was centered on celebrating motherhood and spending quality time with family, reflecting the values of her own mother. However, Jarvis became disillusioned when the holiday was quickly transformed into a commercialized spectacle that deviated from her original vision.
Anna, who ironically never married nor had children of her own, developed a profound respect for motherhood from her own mother who had given birth to eleven children and lost seven of them at an early age. On May 10th, 1908, she organized the very first observance of Mother's Day by holding a memorial service at their church in honor of her late mother and began to speak out for the recognition of the holiday on a national scale.
By 1913, the concept of a national day to honor mothers had caught the attention of Congress in Washington. Within a decade, the US Congress adopted a resolution to establish the day as a formal national holiday. The measure was passed on May 8th, 1914, officially designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. Anna was overjoyed.
Unfortunately, a trend of commercialization took over and Mother's Day became more about buying flowers, candy, and cards than about personal visits or heartfelt gestures. Anna became distraught and lamented the holiday's transformation. She attempted to regain control by campaigning against the profiteers such as confectioners, florists, and retailers. She even filed lawsuits against groups using the name Mother's Day and spent a significant portion of her own money on legal fees. When an organization called the American War Mothers used Mother's Day for fundraising in 1925, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at their convention in Philadelphia. She even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using the occasion to raise money for charity.
By the 1940s, she had disowned the holiday and actively lobbied for its removal from the calendar. Despite her efforts, Mother's Day had become a commercial success and continued to thrive as a holiday, generating millions for others while Anna remained penniless. Due to her deteriorating health, financial difficulties, and absence of close family members to look after her, Jarvis was admitted to a sanitarium to spend the remainder of her life. During her stay, all of her expenses were covered, and the institution received generous compensation for keeping her there and ensuring her silence. Who generously paid for this you might ask? Businessmen linked to the floral and card industries.
Jarvis died a few years later, and the commercialization of Mother's Day continues to this day. According to Forbes, consumers spent $31.7 billion dollars in 2022.