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Cover of sheet music, 'That wonderful mother of mine.'

Cover of sheet music, ‘That wonderful mother of mine.’ 1918. M. Witmark & Sons. Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920 (from Duke University), Library of Congress.

With this weekend being Mother’s Day, I thought I’d post some odds and ends about the day that honors mothers.

  • Mother’s Day originated in the United States although there were various older religious and pagan ceremonies that antedate the modern holiday.
  • The acknowledged founder, Anna Jarvis campaigned vigorously for a day honoring mothers after her mother’s death in 1905.
  • Mother’s Day was first celebrated with a ceremony on Sunday, May 10, 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia, Jarvis’ home.
  • West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day in 1910.
  • In 1912, Jarvis incorporated her own association, trademarked the white carnation and the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day.”
  • Placement of the apostrophe in “Mother’s” is intentional.
  • It was made a national holiday in 1914 by President Wilson, to be observed the second Sunday in May.
  • It started to be observed by sending greeting cards and flowers, or chocolates and photos. but that was becoming too commercialized for Jarvis’ taste.
  • Jarvis hated the commercialization of “her holiday” and threatened lawsuits to various entities planning large celebrations, including New York Governor Al Smith in 1923!
  • She accused Eleanor Roosevelt in 1935 of “crafty plotting” to abuse Mother’s Day by using it in fundraising material for charities trying to combat high maternal and infant mortality rates, “the expectant mother racket,” as Jarvis called them.
  • Jarvis spent her considerable inheritance and the rest of her life fighting the commercialization of “her” holiday.
  • By 1948 when she died, Jarvis was bitter, blind, partially deaf, and completely penniless in a Pennsylvania mental institution.
  • Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated as a “Hallmark Holiday,” complete with sales of everything from A to Z.

Source: Mother’s Day creator likely ‘spinning in her grave’. CanWest News Service, May 11, 2008, (accessed May 7, 2015).


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