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If the commercialization of American holidays frustrates you—cards, flowers, fanfare—try being Anna Jarvis. She is credited with creating Mother’s Day. And like a true Philly fighter, he raised his voice against what had happened until the day he died.
Most historians agree that the origins of Mother’s Day can be traced back to this Philadelphia woman who worked her entire life to establish a holiday to honor motherhood and traditional family values – at a time when Feminist activity was on the rise and women were begging to work. The same message was broadcast on a historic marker in the shadow of City Hall at the intersection of Market and Juniper Streets.
But to understand the story of how Mother’s Day came about in the first half of the 20th century, you have to start 30 years ago.
While Jarvis is seen as the founder (more on that later), Philadelphia Encyclopedia Notes Jarvis was not the first to propose a day in honor of mothers, and also not the first person from Philadelphia to do so.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe – composer of the war hymns of the Republic – put A “Mother’s Day Proclamation” In women’s magazine, a weekly publication in Boston. Its title was “Appeals to Womanhood Around the World”, and it called on women to use a day marked “Mother’s Day” to promote peace after the Civil War.
Howe wanted Mother’s Day to be celebrated on June 2. According to the Encyclopedia, many cities held special services on that day between 1873 and 1913, but the holiday did not reach a wide audience and was considered “too radical” by some. Nevertheless, “in Philadelphia, the Universal Peace Union (UPU), a group dedicated to ending the war and the elimination of the American military, faithfully celebrated Howe’s holiday for four decades.”
Around the same time Howe was pressing her feminist message, a woman named Ann Reeves Jarvis was working on a different type of “Mother’s Day” in West Virginia. She helped create a “Mother’s Day Work Club” to teach women how to properly care for children, According to the Division of Culture and History of West Virginia. She organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” events to unite former union and union loyalists.
But Mother’s Day was not officially recognized until the arrival of Reeves Jarvis’ daughter Anna.
according to a National Geographic accounting, Jarvis moved with her brother to Philadelphia when she was 28 to work at Fidelity Life Insurance. As her mother’s health started deteriorating, she also took her mother to the city to look after her. Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, and Anna Jarvis reportedly spent years in intense mourning. By 1908, Jarvis had thought of a way to honor his “selfless Christian” mother: Mother’s Day.
But he needed support. She put together a Mother’s Day committee of sorts that included businessmen John Wanamaker (yes, of the Wanamaker department store) and HJ Heinz (uh-huh). The idea was that Mother’s Day would have its roots in the celebration of the church, and by 1910, the World’s Sunday School Association supported Jarvis’ approach.
Popularity grew, and quickly. Members of the clergy liked the holiday because it attracted more people to their churches. Wanamaker insisted on introducing a bill in Congress to formally recognize the holiday. And by 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution recognizing Mother’s Day and formally celebrating it on the second Sunday of May.
This is where things started to turn sour.
Commercialization happened rapidly. The retail and floral industries started cashing in shortly after the holiday became official. Katherine Antolini, a historian at West Virginia Wesleyan College who studied the origins of Jarvis and Mother’s Day, Told Nat Geo that this angered Jarvis, Those who wanted the holiday to remain revered.
A quote often attributed to Jarvis (but not to be found in any document): “A printed card means nothing, except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who asked anyone in the world Have done more for you too.”
Jarvis threatened lawsuits, wrote letters, organized protests, took out ads and even criticized former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using the day as a mechanism to raise money for charity. used. Jarvis even went so far as to ask FDR to remove the holiday from the country’s official calendar in 1933.
Obviously, this didn’t work, but his efforts to dismantle the holiday he created continued through the 1940s. Jarvis died in 1948 at Marshall Square Sanatorium in West Chester.
“This woman, who died penniless in a sanatorium of dementia, was a woman who could benefit from Mother’s Day if she wanted to,” Antolini said. Nat Geo. “But he raided those people, and it cost him everything financially and physically.”
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