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Happy Mother’s Day—a day rooted in social activism—not Hallmark

May 10th, 2009     by Andrea Hoang     Comments

Welcome to another Hallmark holiday. Well, sort of.

Mother’s Day invariably gets lumped into that group of holidays that don’t get you a day off of school or work, but you begrudgingly acknowledge and “celebrate” by buying chocolate, flowers and cards. Well okay, you don’t begrudgingly acknowledge the importance of Mom, but you get the idea.

But the history, or herstory, behind the second Sunday of May, unlike other greetings card holidays, involves no mythical saint, and no chocolate-giving animal. Mother’s Day is rooted in activism.

The day was created by Anna Jarvis, who wanted to celebrate her activist mom, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. The elder Jarvis founded “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia in 1858, clubs that dealt with health care, poverty, work and food safety, and more.

The club also nursed soldiers from both sides of the U.S Civil War while remaining politically neutral. Soon, “Mothers Friendship Day,” was born, with the purpose of consoling communities divided by the war. And shortly after that, they created “Mothers’ Day for Peace” — a day to call out to women to unite against war.

In 1905, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis died on the second Sunday of May. Her daughter Anna wanted to keep her mother’s message of peace and humanity alive, so she finally established what we now celebrate every year: Mother’s Day.

And like most holidays, cards, flowers and other products soon became synonymous with the second Sunday of May. The commercialization and exploitation of the holiday angered Anna Jarvis so much that she actually protested a Mother’s Day celebration in 1948. She was highly critical of greetings cards, and was infuriated when the prices of flowers increased for the occasion. She went so far as to say that she regretted creating the holiday because of the commercialization that followed.

Anna Jarvis spent her life trying to “take back the day,” and today, Inter Pares, a social activism group, is trying to spread that very message. Check out their site for more details.

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day?

Tags: activist report

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