Mother’s Day is a celebration honouring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of moth- ers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May.
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognised holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.
Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to hon- our her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honour all Mothers, because she believed they were “The person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
In 1908, the US Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would have to pro- claim also a Mother-in-Law’s Day. However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 some states officially recognised Mother’s Day as a local holiday, the first being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state, in 1910.
In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proc- lamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honour mothers.
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialisation of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark and other com- panies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit.
As a result, she organised boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appre- ciate and honour their Mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis protested at a can- dy makers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923, and at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, carnations had become associated with Mother’s Day, and the selling of carnations by the Ameri- can War Mothers to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace.
In 1912 Anna Jarvis created the Mother’s Day International Association. She specifi- cally noted that Mother’s should “be a sin- gular possessive, for each family to honour its own Mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all Mothers in the world.”