She was specific about the punctuation. It should be singular possessive so that each family can honor their own mother. That very statement implied that it would not be a plural possessive commemorating all women in the world. And so, U.S. President Wilson used the singular possessive when he signed the law creating the official Mother’s Day holiday in 1914.
It’s a bit ironic to me that Anna Jarvis worked diligently for two years to get the President to recognize this holiday when she was at the same time so specific that it should honor one’s own mother. The irony stretches further when she spent the remainder of her life and her riches damning the commercialization of the very day she’d created.
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
Ah, we all have our causes and Anna Jarvis had an extraordinary mother to honor.
On the second Sunday of May in 1907, Anna Jarvis celebrated the life of her mother, Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis. She was also mother to 10 other children, four who reached adulthood.
Mrs. A. M. R. Jarvis was a progressive and influential woman who worked to fulfill the needs of her community. As her children died from diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, and other illnesses, Anna Marie speculated on the relationship between the deaths and the living conditions in Grafton, West Virginia. Outhouses near the homes, windowless rooms that lacked air circulation and sunshine and food that was improperly stored or created from sickly animals all fell within her purview. Mrs. Jarvis organized a Mother’s Work Club with the motto Mother’s Work — For Better Mothers, Better Homes, Better Children, Better Men and Women. Anna’s group of mothers acted as a community action alliance working to eliminate old outhouses, creating inspection services for meat and milk and advocating for airing out houses and cleaning.
When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Anna Marie Jarvis urged her Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to declare neutrality and provide help to both Confederate and Union soldiers. Her five clubs fed and clothed soldiers from both sides and when illness ravaged the camps, Mrs. Jarvis and her mothers’ clubs provided nursing to soldiers of both parties.
Once the war ended, elected officials called upon Mrs. Jarvis for help in ending postwar strife. She planned a “Mothers Friendship Day” for Confederate and Union soldiers and their families. The event caused many to understand that old animosities were destructive and must end. Mrs. Jarvis also taught Sunday School for 25 years and lectured on topics such as “Literature as a Source of Culture and Refinement,” and “The Importance of Supervised Recreational Centers for Boys and Girls”.
So on this day, I’m honoring Mrs. Jarvis, a woman with community spirit, innovative unselfish giving, a bipartisan commitment to community health and food safety, and progressive ideas on literature and the importance of play – a mother of substance.
Happy Mother’s Day!