Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mothers Day

Searching for something to say about Mothers Day, I came across the story of "the mother of Mothers Day" in the United States, Anna Jarvis. But please take note: I can’t find good sources for any of this information. You’ll just have to believe it’s true because...?

Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) was the daughter of Granville Jarvis and Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905). Of the 12 children in the family, Anna was one of only four who survived to adulthood. Her mother, motivated to improve living conditions and to unite a community fractured by the Civil War, started Mother's Day Work Clubs, (alternatively called Mothers Day Friendship Clubs and co-established by Mrs Jarvis's brother, a doctor) and later a Mothers Friendship Day. She also dreamed of establishing "a day of honor and memorial for all mothers everywhere", but died too soon.

And now our hero, Anna Jarvis the Younger, steps up to the plate... Please don’t be offended by my tone here; I don't mean any disrespect to the Jarvis family or anyone else. It’s just that the following scene might cause a riot of mirth or scoffing at an Australian funeral, and I can’t imagine it without orchestra and choirs of angels, the whole vista bathed in mood lighting and our beautiful heroine glowing fiercely under spotlight:

Standing at her mother’s grave, Anna is heard to declare:
"Mother, that prayer made in our little church at Grafton [West Virginia] calling for someone, somewhere, to found a memorial to Mother's Day....

The time and place is here, and the someone is your daughter, and by the grace of God, you shall have that Mother's Day."
Priceless, yes? What a gal.

Thenceforth Anna devoted her whole life to Mothers Day, in one way or another.

The first Mothers Day service was held on 10 May 1908, three years and a day after the death of Mrs Jarvis, in the church where she had taught Sunday School. Anna sent 500 white carnations – her mother’s favourite flower – to be pinned onto the proud and grateful chests of mothers, daughters and sons. In 1910 Mothers Day was celebrated across the state of West Virginia. By 1914, Mothers Day stretched across the whole USA, celebrated on the second Sunday in May.

However, this wasn’t the happy conclusion to the story for Anna. She became enraged by the growing commercialisation of the holiday, and opposed the selling of flowers for the day. In a press release she criticised the floral industry: "What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?" She also disrupted a meeting of the American War Mothers because they were selling Mothers Day carnations, and was removed by the police.

In 1923 she filed a suit against the Governor of New York, protesting a Mothers Day celebration. When the court dismissed the case, Anna protested, and was arrested for disturbing the peace.

And in the 1930s, she campaigned against a Mothers Day stamp to be issued by the US Postal Service, appealing to President Roosevelt for help. (The phrase "Mothers Day" was removed from the stamp, but not the offensive white carnations...)

There's probably a moral to this story: be careful what you wish for? Or be really very specific? :)

Anyway, I hope mothers everywhere had reason to thank Ms Jarvis I & II today. Happy Mothers Day!