Sunday, May 14 was our annual national Mother’s Day. In commemoration, the Writer’s Almanac published some background information about how we got here. Like so many milestones, it can be traced back to one determined person.
Mother’s Day was first celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother. Jarvis worked her whole life for a national day to honor mothers, inspired by her own mother, a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. She wrote letters to anyone who had influence, from President Theodore Roosevelt to Mark Twain. But it wasn’t until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday.
Almost as soon as President Wilson signed the proclamation, companies commercialized the idea, selling greeting cards, flowers, and gifts. Jarvis felt appalled and filed many lawsuits against companies like Hallmark. She felt handwritten letters were more in keeping with the spirit of the day.
Jarvis lived out her last years in a nursing home, nearly blind and almost penniless. But she kept a letter on her wall with a $1.00 bill sewn to it: “I am 6 years old and I love my mother very much. I am sending this to you because you started Mother’s Day.”
The original entry is at http://writersalmanac.org/page/4/.