Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. I bet you can’t tell me the name of the person who is credited with the idea for a national holiday recognizing mothers? Well, although Julia Ward Howe inspired the first movement toward a national observance during the Civil War, her idea didn’t quite catch on – perhaps the nation was still reeling from the divisive war, casualties, deprivations and didn’t feel like celebrating anything, even their mothers! But a half-century later, in 1905, Anna Jarvis successfully introduced the idea for a national holiday recognizing mothers. The first observance of Mother’s Day came on May 10th, 1908, at Jarvis’ church in Grafton, West Virginia. By 1911, the celebration was observed in most states until on May 9th, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday to be held on the second Sunday of May.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2020 there were some 85 million mothers in the U.S., and in 2022 it is estimated that $31.7 billion were spent on gifts, flowers, and cards to celebrate mothers. 🙄 Leave it to the marketing industry to convince people they must spend, spend, spend, when a simple hug and an “I love you, Mom” would have sufficed.
But wait … there’s more to the story! Jarvis’ idea was for a small, intimate occasion—a son or daughter honoring the mother they knew and loved—and not a celebration of all mothers. But, as people are wont to do, they grabbed the proverbial ball and ran with it, turning it into a multi-billion dollar commercialized fiasco each year. Anna Jarvis soon became disgusted as Mother’s Day almost immediately became centered on the buying and giving of printed cards, flowers, candies and other gifts.
Seeking to regain control of the holiday she founded, Jarvis began openly campaigning against those who profited from Mother’s Day, including confectioners, florists and other retailers. She launched numerous lawsuits against groups using the name Mother’s Day, and eventually spent much of her sizable inheritance on legal fees.
In 1925, when an organization called the American War Mothers used Mother’s Day as an occasion for fundraising and selling carnations, Jarvis crashed their convention in Philadelphia and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Later, she even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day as an occasion to raise money for charity. By the 1940s, Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the calendar.
Her efforts were to no avail, however, as Mother’s Day had taken on a life of its own as a commercial goldmine. Largely destitute, and unable to profit from the massively successful holiday she founded, Jarvis died in 1948 in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium.
In total, Mother’s Day spending exceeds $20 billion each year, according to the National Retail Foundation. In addition to the more traditional gifts (ranging from cards, flowers and candy to clothing and jewelry), one survey showed that an unprecedented 14.1 percent of gift-givers plan to buy their moms high-tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets. (Some people have more money than they have good sense, eh?)
On a personal note, I made a huge screw-up this year 😖, but I cannot tell you about it just yet, for it involves my gift to my daughter (because she is the mum now, and the best one I know!) and she sometimes reads my blog posts, but I’ll tell you later. 🙄
At any rate, to all the mothers reading this post, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day! And now … the ‘toonists get to have their say about the day …