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Meet Anna Jarvis, the woman who created Mother’s Day and regretted it

Meet Anna Jarvis, the woman who created Mother’s Day and regretted it

We recently celebrated Mother’s Day, thanking our mothers and mother-figures for the months of discomfort, hours of labor, and/or years of sacrifice. We thanked them for being there for us when we need them the most. But, let’s go back in time and meet Anna Jarvis, the woman responsible for the creation of Mother’s Day. However, she deeply regretted doing so, and here’s the reason why.

Photo from BBC

Meet Anna Jarvis, the woman who created Mother’s Day and regretted it

Anna Jarvis founded Mother’s Day in the United States over a century ago. According to Elisabeth Zetland of MyHeritage, she decided to look for potential living relatives of Anna Jarvis. Zetland, then, led her to Elizabeth Burr who at first thought that it was a scam. Of course, Zetland reassured Burr that her money was safe.

After a lengthy, Burr surprised Zetland with the news that her father and aunts had not celebrated it when they were growing up. She, then, said that it was out of respect for Anna who felt like commercial interests hijacked and corrupted her idea. She inherited her campaign for a special day to celebrate mothers from her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis.

Stock Photo from Canva

Anna Jarvis’ inheritance from her own mother.

According to historian Katharine Antolini, Mrs. Jarvis spent most of her life mobilizing mothers to care for their children. She wanted people to recognize a mother’s work. She also hoped that someone will found a memorial mothers’ day to commemorate their life for the matchless service that they render to humanity in every field of life.

Mrs. Jarvis had thirteen children, including Anna. However, only four of them lived to adulthood. Losing nine children (which included five who died during the American Civil War), she most likely succumbed to a disease. When she died in 1905, a grief-stricken Anna promised to fulfill her mother’s dream.

Photo from BBC

Anna Jarvis’ approach to a memorial day for mothers.

Her perspective was that of a devoted daughter, creating the motto: “For the Best Mother who Ever Lived – Your Mother.” This became the reason why the apostrophe on Mother’s Day had to be in a singular format and not plural. Anna envisioned the holiday as a homecoming, a day to honor one’s mother and the woman who dedicated her life to you.

First-ever Mother’s Day.

Her message was something that everyone could get behind. Churches also agreed to her idea, especially when she chose to celebrate it on the second Sunday of May. Three years after her mother’s death, the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton. She handed out hundreds of white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to mothers who attended.

Stock Photo from Canva

Success and commercialization of Mother’s Day.

The popularity of the celebration grew and President Woodrow Wilson eventually designated it as a national holiday in 1914. Unfortunately, the commercialization surrounding the celebration became a huge factor in its success. Anna never wanted the day to become commercialized. However, it did faster than she thought possible.

The floral, greeting, and candy industries started to boom every second week of May. That wasn’t what Anna wanted. When prices of carnations rocketed, she released a press release condemning florists. She said:

“WHAT WILL YOU DO to rout charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?”

Photo from Buzzfeed

Anna Jarvis’ actions against commercializing Mother’s Day.

By 1920, she urged people not to buy flowers at all. She felt upset with any organization that used Mother’s Day for anything but her original and sentimental design. This even included charities who used the holiday for fundraising even if they meant to help poor mothers. She insisted that it was a day to celebrate mothers, not pity them because they were poor.

Mother’s Day was even dragged into the debate over women’s votes. People who went against it said that a woman’s true place was in the home. They also said that she would remain busy as a wife and a mother to even be involved in politics. For their part, suffrage groups argued that “If she is good enough to be the mother of your children, she is good enough to vote.”

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Stock Photo from Canva

This, of course, stressed the need for women to have a say in the future well-being of their children. Although it was a good thought, it wasn’t what Anna wanted it to symbolize. When industries offered her money, she refused it and never profited from the day even if she could easily have done so.

Anna, then, spent every Penny fighting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day. One of her final acts included going door-to-door in Philadelphia asking for signatures to back an appeal for Mother’s Day to be revoked and canceled. Unfortunately, she died of heart failure in November 1948 still fighting against its commercialization.

Photo from Signal Tribune

Anna Jarvis’ legacy.

With her anti-commercialization crusade, Anna’s first cousin and Burr’s aunt Jane Unkefer honored her memory as they decide to never celebrate Mother’s Day for several generations. Unkefer and her family expressed that they didn’t like Mother’s Day at all.

“We really didn’t like Mother’s Day. And the reason we didn’t is that my mother, as a child, had heard a lot of negative things said about Mother’s Day. We acknowledged it as a nice sentiment, but we didn’t go in for the fancy dinner or the bouquets of flowers.”

Unkefer, then, confessed that she changed her mind about the celebration now. Despite the negative things that her mother said, she wanted her children to honor her and her day in Anna’s sentimental way. For a long time, Burr felt sad that commercialization foiled her original intention. These days, she sends a card to her daughter-in-law, the mother of her grandchildren to honor them.

Stock Photo from Canva
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