Over and over again our connections to each other define us. Humans are social-beings.
We just finished up the MOST amazing conference in NYC. Each presentation was so articulate and inspiring. I am bound by this circle of women that reaches beyond the very personal to my community in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, to MAMAPALOOZA, to the Museum of Motherhood. This bond connects individuals and groups from one continent to the next. I have found spiritual and intellectual friendships in Canada, England, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, Tunisia, and more: smart and engaging artists, academics, and sisters who have helped me to understand what it is to be a mother.
But, none of this journey would have been possible without my own mother, Joy Rose who gave me life– and my children: Brody Marpet, Blaze, Ali Marpet, and Zena Marpet who have taught me how to truly live. I am so grateful to all of you for the time we have had and all the time we will have together in the future. Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day. ~MJR
Also, if you want to read the real story of Mother’s Day, I had the pleasure of speaking at the International Mother’s Day Shrine a few years ago. Find out about the non-commercial aspects of MD here: When the holiday went commercial, its greatest champion gave everything to fight it, dying penniless and broken in a sanitarium. Of course, Mother’s Day marched on without her and is today celebrated, in various forms, on a global scale.
As early as the 1850s, West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis 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 of both sides during the U.S.Civil War from 1861 to 1865, she added. In the postwar years Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist events uniting 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 Mothers’ 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.
Moved by the 1905 death of her own mother, Anna Jarvis, who never had children of her own, was the driving force behind 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,” said West Virginia Wesleyan’s Antolini, who wrote “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Defense of Her Mother’s Day” as her Ph.D. dissertation. “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.
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 which 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.
A similar protest followed two years later. “The American War Mothers, which still exists, used Mother’s Day for fundraising 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.”
Today, of course, Mother’s Day continues to roll on as an engine of consumerism. In the U.S. alone, Mother’s Day 2012 spending will reach $18.6 billion—with the average adult spending more than $152.52 on gifts, the National Retail Federation estimates.