Although the urging for the creation of a Mother’s Day holiday had been advocated by peace activists and suffragettes Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis for 40 years, it was not until 1905 that Jarvis initiated her campaign to make it a recognized holiday in the United States after her mother died.
In 1907 Jarvis asked guests to wear a white carnation to the church service on the anniversary of her mother’s death.
In 1908 Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day a national holiday but by 1941 all U.S. states observed the holiday. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as a national event to honor mothers.
Although she was proud of her accomplishment in being a founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis became resentful of what she perceived as being the over commercialization of the holiday.
When Hallmark Cards and other merchants entered the lucrative card selling field in the early 1920s Jarvis resented her prior efforts to have the date recognized because she believed that the emphasis of celebration had shifted from the sentiment of honoring the matriarchs of the family to a profit motive. She spent the rest of her life attempting to restore the day to a simple recognition of mothers. As a result, she organized boycotts, threatened to file lawsuits against the commercial companies and opposed the buying of gifts and greeting cards.
Through the 1920s she protested various merchants selling candy in support of the holiday, the selling of carnations by American War Mothers to raise money for their organizations, and was even arrested for disturbing the peace.
Her continuous objections to the holiday eventually led to her being committed to an insane asylum where she died alone in 1948.
Today over 60 countries celebrate some form of Mother’s Day which is now set for the second Sunday. This year that is May 9.
Renowned Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant perhaps made one of the most compelling public comments on the true meaning of Mother’s Day during one of his commercials for the telephone company South Central Bell when he urged the listeners on his television show to “call their mom on Mother’s Day, - I wish I could call mine."
(Excerpts from “The Little Book of Answers” – Author – Doug Lennox – (2003) – MJF Books – New York, NY 1001.)