Saturday Star

The women behind Mother’s Day

- TANYA WATERWORTH tanya.waterworth@inl.co.za

WHILE the origins of Mother's Day can be traced back to honouring ancient Greek and Roman goddesses, Rhea and Cybele, it was the efforts of two US women, Ann Reeves Jarvis and her daughter, Anna Jarvis, who establishe­d the modern Mother's Day celebratio­n.

And when the day became too commercial­ised, Anna Jarvis organised boycotts, protests and lawsuits to have Mother's Day banned from the national calendar, ending up broke and in a sanitarium.

History reports indicate the day was born out of grief for lost children in the 1850s, mother Ann Reeves Jarvis had lost a number of her 11 children to disease before they reached adulthood (the numbers differ in different accounts). This motivated her to teach mothers more about hygiene and healthy care for children.

She started a Mother’s Work Day to teach mothers sanitation, such as when preparing food, to care properly for their children.

At the time vaccines and germ theory were still to be discovered and typhoid ran rampant in the area of the Appalachia­ns where she lived. Ann Jarvis and her brother, who was a doctor, organised the work clubs. Her vision was a community service day for mothers to help other mothers.

Jarvis’s work expanded during the US Civil War. Her home was close to a major battlefiel­d and she organised groups of mothers to visit and care for wounded soldiers from both the Union and Confederat­e sides of the war.

Her efforts inspired other women to try to find ways to help, including suffragett­e, abolitioni­st and writer, Julia Ward Howe, who had volunteere­d for the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. After the war, Howe wrote her “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” and later “Mother's Day Proclamati­on” calling for women to unite and work towards global peace.

Howe wrote: “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

In 1908, Howe was also the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In 1908 Anna Jarvis, daughter of Anne Reeves Jarvis, began to campaign to have Mother’s Day as an officially recognised day in honour of her mother, who had died in 1905, and for all women who had made sacrifices for their children.

Although never marrying or having children, Anna got financial backing from a department store owner, John Wanamaker from Philadelph­ia, and in May 1908, organised the first official Mother's Day celebratio­n at a Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

She was determined to see the special day added to the national calendar, arguing that holidays were biased towards male achievemen­ts.

She launched a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politician­s and by 1912, many churches, towns and states had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday.

Anna establishe­d her Mother’s Day Internatio­nal Associatio­n. Her determinat­ion paid off with US President Woodrow Wilson signing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

It became a celebratio­n, with generous bouquets of flowers and beribboned boxes of chocolates the order of the day, but Anna was outraged at the commercial­ism around her special day. She launched a campaign against the big profiteers, urging people not to buy cards, confection­ery or flowers.

She also launched lawsuits against groups that used the name “Mother’s Day” and actively lobbied the US government to have the day removed from the national calendar.

“If the American people are not willing to protect Mother’s Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having Mother’s Day,” she wrote in the 1920s.

But big business won out and Anna died in 1948, in a sanitarium and penniless. However, her efforts were not in vain and she has been recognised as a pioneer inspiring many mothers to become powerful advocates for change.

¡ Sources: history.com; Lincolncot­tage.org; Reader’s Digest.

 ??  ?? ANNA Jarvis, daughter of Ann, pushed for the first official Mother’s Day celebratio­n in West Virginia in 1908, three years after the death of her mother.
ANNA Jarvis, daughter of Ann, pushed for the first official Mother’s Day celebratio­n in West Virginia in 1908, three years after the death of her mother.
 ??  ?? IN THE 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis started a Mother’s Work Day to teach mothers to care for their children to prevent disease.
IN THE 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis started a Mother’s Work Day to teach mothers to care for their children to prevent disease.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa