This year I feel as though I am playing "mother" to my Mother. Her hip fracture and subsequent break put her through two surgeries in less than two months. She will be 88 this week, and I am trying to cause peace to return to her heart.
The woman who organized Mother's Day--which is celebrating its hundred year anniversary this year--Anne Jarvis, would have liked that amount to be zero. It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women's organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna's mother—held Mother's Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
On May 10 of that year, families gathered at events in Jarvis's hometown of Grafton, West Virginia—at a church now renamed the International Mother's Day Shrine—as well as in Philadelphia, where Jarvis lived at the time, and in several other cities. In 1914, President Wilson declared it a national holiday for the second Sunday in May. Anna Jarvis's idea of an intimate Mother's Day quickly became a commercial gold mine (as Americans can do better than anyone) centering on the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards—a development that deeply disturbed Jarvis.
She set about dedicating herself and her sizable inheritance to returning Mother's Day to its reverent roots. Jarvis's fervent attempts to reform Mother's Day continued until at least the early 1940s. In 1948 she died at 84 penniless and broken in Philadelphia's Marshall Square Sanitarium.
Hallmark Cards sold its first Mother's Day cards in the early 1920s and reports that Mother's Day is the number three holiday for card exchange in the United States, behind Christmas and Valentine's Day—another apparent affront to the memory of the mother of Mother's Day. About 133 million Mother's Day cards are exchanged annually, according to Hallmark. After Christmas, it's the second most popular holiday for giving gifts. In a way, it is good to know that cards still exist and mothers are not just getting tweets or texts, still it is not about stuff as I wrote a couple weeks ago. It is about people...and whoever your mother is...whether from birth or from love...
“Because I feel that, in the Heavens above
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love
None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’”
—Edgar Allan Poe