Take Back the Day!: Mother’s Day: Not just an invention of the greeting card makers!

Contrary to general opinion, Mother’s Day was not the invention of the greeting card makers or floral industry.
In fact, Mother’s Day originates circa American Civil War and was the brainchild of Anna Jarvis, in recognition of her own mother Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis‘ dream of one day having Mother’s Friendship Day a nationally recognised memorial day for mothers.

Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis Anna Jarvis

Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis created the idea of Mother’s Friendship Day as a way of bringing together families and communities torn apart by the Civil War, based on a shared love of their mothers.

By 1907, two years after the death of her mother, Anna Jarvis had organized the first memorial dedicated to her mother.

By 1914, she had succeeded in the dream and Mother’s Day a national holiday. However, as the day became more widely recognised and celebrated, it became less focussed on peace and friendship and more directly related to celebration mothers.

By 1917, the day had become so commercially successful that the original meaning was lost and Anna Jarvis and her sister, Ellsinore, were actively campaigning to have it stopped. Anna Jarvis even incorporated herself as “Mother’s Day International Association“, had been arrested for disturbing the peace during on protest, and had claimed copyright on the second Sunday in May. She and her sister spent their family inheritance fighting against the commercialization of the day, dying in poverty, as a result.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe, anti-war campaigner and author of the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” continued the effort to carry the Mother’s Day tradition of peace and reconciliation through her “Mother’s Day of Peace” campaign. By 1872, she was promoting the day to be celebrated on June 2, honoring peace, motherhood and womanhood.

By 1873, women in 18 cities in America held a Mother’s Day for Pace gathering. In Boston, the day was celebrated for about 10 more years. Sadly, however, the tradition didn’t last after Howe was no longer paying for them.

While some communities continued the tradition for another 30 years, the commercialized Mother’s Day, held on the 2nd Sunday in May held sway.

Inter Pares, a Canada-based organization working with women world-wide to promote peace and justice, is doing their part to revive the day as it was originally envisioned by Anna Jarvis and her mother Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis. They are asking us to “TAKE BACK THE DAY by supporting women around the world working for better futures – for themselves, their communities, and their societies.”

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