US woman’s fight to fete mothers

CRUSADER: Ann Jarvis, the founder of Mothers Day
Picture: FILE

While it is true that events celebrating mothers go back as far as pre-historic times, Mother’s Day as we know it today,has its origins in 1886. only goes back as far as 1886.
This is when an American woman, Ann Jarvis, established the Mothers Friendship Day Committee, the aim of which was to get a specific day added to the national calendar which was dedicated to helping families reunite following the conclusion of the American Civil War.

Jarvis had hoped to extend this holiday so that it became an annual event, but died in 1905 before her dream could be fulfilled.

Her cause was taken up by her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, and in 1910 the State of Virginia declared Mothers Day an official public holiday, with the rest of the US soon following suit.

Over time, the idea spread to the rest of the world . While it is true that many countries already had similar celebrations already, the US model has become popular since its first inception.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there..

Jarvis became increasingly possessive of her holiday and would spend the rest of her life fighting what she believed was the immoral commercialisation of Mother’s Day.

Her fight began around the 1920s when floral companies began drastically increasing the prices of white carnations – the symbol of Mothers Day – as the holiday approached and even introducing new red carnations, something Jarvis considered to have diluted the original symbolism.

Jarvis attempted to counter this by creating her own “official” Mothers’ Day badge although this never really caught on.

Jarvis’ criticism didn’t just stop at flowers. In a fierce article to the since-closed magazine Coronet, Jarvis said: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to mother – and then eat most of it yourself”.

Jarvis’ crusade was brought to an abrupt end when she was sentenced to be held in Marshall Square Sanitarium. In order to keep her locked up, her bills were paid by representatives of the floral and greeting card industries.

Penniless and alone, Jarvis died on November 24, 1948, and was buried next to her mother in Pennsylvania.


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