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Mother's Day founder spent years railing against holiday's commercialization

Updated: May 6, 2022

The Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum in Grafton, WV is open to the public for touring. For information, call (304) 265-5549.

→ Did you know Mother’s Day is around the corner? On Sunday, May 8, mothers across the country will awake to smiling loved ones and breakfast in bed, basking in all their motherhood glory. Or they may awake to business as usual, accompanied by screaming kids, doing laundry, and preparing Sunday dinner.

Motherhood comes in all forms, from birth to adoption, to stepmothers, single mothers, foster mothers, or those who take on the role of a parental figure in many peoples’ lives.

→ Did you know honoring mothers with a holiday began in ancient times? Steeped in religion, the day was originally intended to honor the Greek and Roman mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The day transformed into “Mothering Sunday” which was made popular in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. It fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was received as a calling to return to their “mother church” where they were baptized.

Later, the religious holiday transformed into a secular holiday of giving mothers chocolates, cards, flowers, and gifts. Contrary to what conspiracy theories state, the conglomerate Hallmark did not invent Mother’s Day. In the 1920s they simply created cards to mark the occasion.

Eventually, the holiday became the third-largest card-sending day in the United States, with 113 million cards exchanged annually.

→ Did you know the American version of “Mother’s Day” was created by Philadelphian, Anna Jarvis in 1908? The inspiration for starting the day was birthed out of grief for her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, who died in 1905. Anna Reeves wanted to honor the sacrifices that mothers make for their children. During that time, it was customary to wear a white carnation as a tribute to one’s passed mother, which then developed into wearing pink or red to represent a living mother. President Woodrow Wilson granted it official U.S holiday status in 1914.

→ Did you know Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her years protesting the holiday she created? The day of tribute quickly became associated with flowers, candies, and trinkets. Ironically, Jarvis was a florist but decried the egregious amount of money that consumed the holiday. From then on, she did everything in her power to abolish the holiday.

Anna Jarvis had a different vision for the day of tribute in mind. Commercialization swallowed the holiday and major companies continue to cash in on the second Sunday in May. However, perhaps all is not lost. What is something you can do this Mother’s Day to celebrate your mother in the most authentic and genuine way you can think of? Good luck, and Happy Mother’s Day!


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