Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers are fonder than fathers

of their children because they are more certain they are their own. ~Aristotle

Do you know that Mother's Day was not invented by Hallmark or FTD, but the idea was created by Julia Ward Howe, the author of the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She was horrified by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War and in 1870 tried to issue a manifesto for peace at international peace conferences in London and Paris. Julia began a one-woman peace crusade and made an impassioned "appeal to womanhood" to rise against war. She composed a powerful plea that same year (generally considered to be the original Mothers' Day proclamation) translated it into several languages and distributed it widely. In 1872, she went to London to promote an international Woman's Peace Congress. She began promoting the idea of a "Mother's Day for Peace" to be celebrated on June 2, honoring peace, motherhood and womanhood.

Howe rigorously championed the cause, holding meetings every year in Boston on Mother's Peace Day. The celebrations died out when she turned her efforts to working for peace and women's rights in other ways. Howe failed in her attempt to get the formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace.

Another woman, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, attempted to improve sanitation through what she called "Mothers Friendship Day". It was Jarvis' daughter, Anna Jarvis, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother's Day in today's tradition. Anna graduated from the Female Seminary in Wheeling and taught in Grafton for a while. Later she moved to Philadelphia with her family. Her mother died in Philadelphia on May 9, 1905. Anna felt children often neglected to appreciate their mothers enough while the mothers were still alive so she campaigned for a designated Mother's Day to honor mothers.
The Mother's Day International Association came into being on December 12, 1912, to promote and encourage meaningful observances of the event. Anna's dream came true when on May 9, 1914, the President Woodrow Wilson declared the 2nd Sunday of May to be observed as Mother's Day to honor the mothers.

"Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

As a result of her efforts the first Mother's Day was observed on May 10, 1908, with a church service honoring the late Mrs. Reese Jarvis, in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she spent 20 years taking Sunday school classes. Grafton is the home to the International Mother's Day Shrine. It was here in the first observance that the carnations were introduced by Miss Jarvis. Large jars of white carnations were set about the platform where the service was conducted.
At the end of the service, one of these white carnations was given to each person present as a souvenir of Mother's Day. All this was done because the late elder Jarvis was fond of carnations.
Interestingly, Anna Jarvis was horrified at the commercialism that quickly took over the day. (Truly American...) In 1934, the first stamp was issued...Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States. And so I am off to take my Mother out to dinner...Happy Mother's Day.

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