President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day — celebrated the second Sunday each May — an official U.S. holiday in 1914.
Earlier efforts to recognize motherhood were pursued by people such as Ann Jarvis, an activist in the late 1800s. But it was her daughter, Anna Jarvis, who’s considered the founder of the modern Mother’s Day.
Anna Jarvis waged a letter-writing campaign to generate support for Mother’s Day, “arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements,” according to History.com. She also created the Mother’s Day International Association, trademarked related phrases and is credited with the first observances in 1908.
“She wanted Mother’s Day to be a very private acknowledgment of all the mother does for the family,” said Katharine Antolini, a history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “It was very sweet.”
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According to the National Retail Federation, 84 percent of U.S. adults will celebrate today and spend a record $25 billion, up nearly 8.3 percent from 2018.
Three-quarters of responders to an NRF survey said they planned to buy a card for the holiday. The next most popular gifts were flowers (67 percent), special outings (55 percent), gift cards (45 percent), clothing or accessories (38 percent) and jewelry (35 percent).
Hallmark began making cards specifically for Mother’s Day in the early 1920s. Around 113 million such cards are now exchanged annually.
More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year.
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The aforementioned statistics, however, miss the point of Mother’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate and thank our mothers. Few things are more challenging, or rewarding, than being a parent.
Town & Country magazine listed in March comments about mothers from some well-known names. They included:
• “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln.
• “When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” Mitch Albom.
• “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect form.” Maya Angelou.
• “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Rudyard Kipling.
One comment with no attribution rings particularly true: “Life doesn’t come with a manual; it comes with a mother.”
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Things did not end well for Anna Jarvis, who never married nor had children.
She spent the latter part of her life fighting the commercialization of the holiday, which cost her both emotionally and financially. She “urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies,” according to History.com, and sued parties that used the phrase “Mother’s Day” to promote their products or services.
“She wished for Mother’s Day to remain a ‘holy day,’” wrote Antolini, author of “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Struggle for Control of Mother’s Day,” in a piece for Smithsonian.com, “to remind us of our neglect of ‘the mother of quiet grace’ who put the needs of her children before her own.
“(The celebration was) a ‘thank-offering’ from sons and daughters and the nation ‘for the blessing of good homes.’”
That sentiment and other traditions of Mother’s Day, thankfully, continue.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor