In Search of HERstory
Anna Jarvis created the first official celebration of Mother’s Day in 1908 at the St. Andrews Methodist Church, now known as the International Mother’s Day Shrine, in Grafton, West Virginia. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the 1914 proclamation by Woodrow Wilson that recognizes the second Sunday of each May as a public expression of our “love and reverence for mothers.” I am thrilled to be speaking at the International Mother’s Day Shrine as part of the celebration. The topic will be “In Search of HERstory” and my guest for the weekend, of course, will be my mother.
The spirit of Mother’s Day was intended as a “holy” day. Jarvis copyrighted the “Second Sunday in May” which was the anniversary of her own mother’s death. She encouraged family members to go to church, wear a carnation and write a heartfelt letter to their mother. Katharine Antolini,a leading Jarvis scholar, describes Anna’s socially, politically, and, religiously inclined mother as wishing for a day “to commemorate mothers for their contribution to all fields of life.”
War and Peace
Julia Ward Howe, who called for women to establish a Mother’s Day For Peace is sometimes thought of as the originator of Mother’s Day, however the holiday was specifically championed by Anna Jarvis who petitioned politicians and presidents as well as trademarking the idea. Julia’s idea was a politically inclined Peace Movement championed by mothers. In 1872 she authored the Mother’s Day Proclamation.
It takes tremendous fortitude to rally great numbers of people around a central theme. This was Anna Jarvis’s success. Ultimately it was an International success, with different versions and dates of the day spreading throughout the world. However she fought bitterly all manner of misuse of her phrase in the United States. Her foes included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Governor Al Smith, and multiple attempts by others to coopt Mother’s Day for fundraising initiatives.
Railing Against Consumerism
Anna Jarvis was committed to keeping the intention of Mother’s Day pure. As the National Geographic story, “Mother’s Day’s Dark History” recounts, keeping the celebration focused, heartfelt, and personal was harder than she ever imagined. According to Antolini the fight to keep the essential meaning of Mother’s Day cost Jarvis everything “financially and physically.” She spent years admonishing the public who she saw as buying into a “Hallmark” Holiday, accusing families of being too lazy to truly honor the “woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
She did not succeed in protecting the sacredness of her vision from monetization. “In the U.S. alone, Mother’s Day 2012 spending reached $18.6 billion—with the average adult spending more than $152.52 on gifts.”
I believe strongly in the absolute beauty of non-commercial endeavors. As the founder of the Mamapalooza Festival I’ve been called to consistently resist the corruption of pure vision for the sake of pure profit. This has meant embracing parks and people, and turning away from very lucrative opportunities that involve less savory aspects of capitalism – not always successfully, but very often avoiding big companies doing very bad things.
Anna Jarvis died broke and blind. She spent her inheritance vying for control of her vision. I hope is where we part ways. I understand all great visions need many voices. That’s why my stage is filled with them; all kinds of people and perspectives. I work on keeping my heart in the right place, and then hope everything else will follow in positive and prosperous ways. I’m a fighter, but I’m also a player. MOMS ROCK!