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Contrary to what many might believe,  Mother’s Day – celebrated on the second Sunday of May – was not invented by Hallmark as an excuse to sell cards.  Mothers have undoubtedly been honored for as long as there have been mothers.  The earliest organized celebrations go to back to the ancient Greeks who honored Rhea, the mother of several of their deities, in an annual spring festival.  Likewise, the Romans honored Cybele, “their Great Mother of Gods,” and the Christians in due time honored Mary, the mother of Christ, on the fourth Sunday in Lent. (Mother’s Day)

It took several tries to organize Mother’s Day as we now know it in the United States.  One source credits a mother from Albion, Michigan, Juliet Calhoun Blakely.  In the late 1800s, her sons reportedly began paying “...tribute to her each year and urged others to honor their mothers.” (Mother’s Day in the United States) 

Others credit Julia Ward Howe.  Howe, along with being a pacifist and a suffragist, also wrote the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."  (Mother’s Day) Around 1870 in Boston, she “...called for Mother's Day to be celebrated each year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women.” (Mother’s Day in the United States)  She believed that mothers “...bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else.” (Mother’s Day)  After about ten years, though, her efforts died out. (Mother’s Day in the United States)

The two women commonly credited with getting Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday in the Untied States are Ann and Anna Jarvis, a mother and daughter respectively from Grafton, West Virginia.  Starting in the Civil War, the elder Jarvis organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to equally care for wounded soldiers from both sides.  (Strauss)  In 1905 when Mother Jarvis died, her daughter began a campaign to memorialize her life work. Legend has it that young Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, "I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother's day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers." (Mother’s Day)

In 1907, Jarvis was content to hold a private memorial for her mother, but the following year, Jarvis organized a service honoring mothers in general at the Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, which was attended by over 400 mothers and their children.  Since then, the church has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, having “become the International Mother's Day Shrine.” (Mother’s Day in the United States)

With the eventual financial support of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, John Wanamaker, who saw the marketing potential from the start, (Father’s Day) Jarvis was able to bring her cause to the attention of national lawmakers, (Mother’s Day in the United States)  including both Presidents Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.  (Mother’s Day)  In 1913, “the House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for officials of the federal government to wear white carnations on Mother's Day,” a practice Jarvis had started five years earlier.  And the following year, in 1914, all of Anna’s lobbying paid off with Woodrow Wilson’s declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday  (Mother’s Day) “in honor of ‘that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America.’” (Father’s Day)  Since then, Mother’s Day has become the most popular day of the year to eat out, and that day also marks the heaviest traffic on telephone networks as children across America call their mothers. (Mother’s Day)

Ironically, to say the least, Jarvis spent the later years of her life lobbying in vain for the abolition of Mother’s Day because she felt “...that the day's sentiment was being sacrificed at the expense of greed and profit.”  She filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop a Mother’s Day celebration, and went so far as to be arrested for trying to stop the sell of carnations to a group of war mothers.  (Mother’s Day)  Jarvis had meant for Mother’s Day to be “’a day of sentiment, not profit...’” for the greeting card industry, “...which she saw as ‘a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.’”  To her dying day in 1948, Jarvis regretted ever creating the holiday.  (Strauss)

But, really, what did she suspect?  After all, this is America, and if there is a way to make a buck off something, you have to be pretty naïve to think somebody won’t.  If marijuana is ever legalized, how long do you think it will take for there to be 4:20 cards?  Oh... wait.  There already are. (“4 20 Cards” and “420 Greeting Cards,” to name but a few)

Incidentally, Anna Jarvis never had children. (Strauss)


Work Cited

“4 20 Cards.”  2012.  Zazzle.  16 Aug. 2012.  http://www.zazzle.com/4+20+cards

“420 Greeting Cards.”  2012.  Café Press.  16 Aug. 2012.  http://www.cafepress.com/+420+greeting_cards

“Father’s Day.”  2012.  History.com.  15 Aug. 2012.  http://www.history.com/topics/fathers-day

“Mother’s Day.”  123.Holiday.Net.  15 Aug. 2012.  http://mothers-day.123holiday.net/

“Mother’s Day in the United States.”  2012.  TimeAndDate.com.  15 Aug. 2012.  http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/mothers-day

Strauss, Valerie.  “Why Mother’s Day founder came to hate her creation (and more on moms, gifts, baby names etc.).”  13 May 2012.  The Washington Post.  15 Aug. 2012.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-mothers-day-founder-came-to-hate-her-creation-and-more-on-moms-gifts-baby-names-etc/2012/05/13/gIQAy