Time and time again, a mother proves herself to be a great blessing to those around her. Sometimes, it takes a lot of sacrifice, as shown to us by a mother who chose to forgo cancer treatment to save her baby. Sometimes, it can be in the seemingly little things, like this mom’s viral post on social media promoting depression awareness.
Other times, a mother shares her kindness to people not even her real children, as in the case of this woman donating 5,000 pints of breast milk to gay couples and parents of premature babies, this woman adopting her former student who has been in the foster system since he was nine, or even this group of stay-at-home female doctors providing online consultations to the poor.
Mother’s Day is a tribute to people like them, for sure. But beyond the flowers, fancy gifts in pastel wrapping paper, and delightful brunches, the real history behind the holiday has a lot more to do with peace activism and anti-war sentiments.
A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died . . . Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized . . . Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May.
Anna Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children.
If you’ve ever experienced confusion on where the apostrophe falls, don’t worry. I think all of us have. However, even in the 1900s, Anna Jarvis was determined to make it a singular possessive, with the apostrophe coming before the s. She believed that each mother in each family has to be recognized, and so, each mother deserves to feel like it’s her own day.
But again, like I’ve teased earlier, the history of Mother’s Day has even deeper roots. Where did Anna Jarvis get the idea to push for her agenda? That’s right — the answer, of course, is her own mom.
[Ann Reeves Jarvis] played an important role uniting women for good causes. [She] cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the field during the Civil War, and in its aftermath she organized a “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” the goal of which was to foster reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers by having them come together, along with mothers from both sides.
In an attempt to stop the violence brought upon by the American Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis wanted to rally mothers. Her entire life was spent promoting peace and childcare, especially in the midst of war. No wonder her daughter wanted to pay tribute to motherhood.
Years later, daughter Anna Jarvis lobbied against the commercialization of the holiday. She thought that the whole point of Mother’s Day was defeated by how florists, card-makers, and other businesses profit so much from it. And I agree, though I won’t protest the existence of the holiday itself. This Mother’s Day, we might want to look beyond the fancy-shmancy stuff in shops and restaurants. Perhaps we might also want to recognize the day’s roots in women’s activism, and celebrate some recent gender milestones.
Then again, I think it’s okay to spoil your mom just a little. After all, we should remember where the apostrophe falls. This Mother’s Day, it’s okay to get your mom carnations if she loves them. It’s okay to have afternoon tea with pretty pastries. Just don’t forget what this day really is about: her.