WNA Blog

Sat 8 May 2021

Mother’s Day – Beyond all the Commerce


In The News
mothers day 2021
It has been over 110 years since the first Mother’s Day, which took place on the second Sunday in May 1907, although it took another seven years to become an official national holiday across the US.

However, the intention of the day was never about boxes of chocolates, greeting cards, opulent flowers or the like.

 

When Ann Jarvis, a mother of thirteen of which only four lived to adulthood, called the precursor of what became mother’s day into life, it was 1858 and mostly focused on improving sanitation and reduce infant mortality. Then, post civil war which had claimed many a son’s life, Ann’s aim was to re-unite mothers from both sides of the war in a Mother’s Peace Day just ten years later.

Enter Julia Howe, who in 1873 really directed the ‘Mother’s Peace Day’ toward the sacred right of mothers to protect the lives of their boys and with war being a preventable evil, heralding a much more life essential and mother’s right focus.

In 1905 Ann Jarvis passed away on the second Sunday in May marking this as the day we still today use to shower our mothers with gifts, flowers and usually a glass of champagne or three. One of her only surviving daughters Anna Jarvis called a life celebration for her on the two-year anniversary of her mother’s passing, held in West Virginia.

It started to stick, the year following growing in size and by 1910 it had become an official day in Virginia. Ann kept lobbying and even legally fighting to have the day to remain a very private acknowledgement of all that a mother does for her family. Hence the Mother’s Day singular possessive term for the day. As the mother that matters most, is your own mother.

US president Woodrow Wilson announced it as a national holiday in 1914 with Canada following suit the next year. Ann Jarvis started to realise that what had been created as a private occasion has become a hay day for florists, gift shops and greeting card companies and started to lobby against it becoming a commercial highlight rather than a personal reverential one, as intended.

Over the coming years the day has been hijacked by the New York Mother’s Day Committee to make it a huge celebration and later the American War Mothers who managed to lobby then president Roosevelt to launch a Mother’s Day stamp baring white carnations, like the ones Anna Jarvis handed out at the third anniversary of her mother’s passing.

She even lobbied against price hikes for white carnations as florists started to aim at maximising profits on the day. Many legal threats and lobbying battles enflaired, including accusing first lady Eleanor Roosevelt of using the day to drive fundraising for high maternal and infant mortality rates. Anna Jarvis realised that she could not contain her creation and threatened to end the day in the 1940’s.

Then in her 80’s Anna was placed in an asylum and empoveraged from the many legal battles over the special day she had created, she passed just four years later. She had never made a profit from the day or had children herself.

Today, Mother’s Day is one of the biggest commercial holidays on the annual calendar which rattles retail registers to the tune of $25 billion dollars across the US and some staggering $730 million Down Under.

And, while it is of course honourable to celebrate our mothers, treat, spoil and shower her with gifts, attention and tokens of appreciation and love, it may also be wise to recall just how much all the mothers throughout history in your family have given in order for us to stand here today, flowers and chocolates in hand.

And, to remember that the origin of the day of family breakfast, lavish champagne brunches and habitual gift buying is actually more about holding the family, the rights of our mothers especially to hold sacred the lives of their children (not just in times of war). And, to be grateful for all our mother does, did and the lineage of mothers through time has done so we can be here now.

In essence, I think, most of us do take our mothers and the many small and large things she does somewhat for granted, but for one day per year when we proudly proclaim she does not have to cook or clean but be celebrated instead. Wouldn’t it be more honouring if we cherished her by giving to her and doing things for her on more days than one in a year?

Researching the origins of the big Mum’s day, as I reflect upon it and write about it, I sit here half way through my own life with a broken leg and temporarily handicapped. My mother, just into her 80’s without a single question or complaint is there to make up any loss in mobility so I have nothing the lack of.

She already is the full-time carer for her husband, my step-dad, for many years ensuring he can remain at home, only to now care for me as well. Thinking about the big day of celebrating her, I cannot fathom the countless things she has done – from having me and my sister, raising us, caring for the wider family, mending endless cuts and a few broken hearts, cooking nourishment for us all more times than I can recall, being strong, being kind, being there – always. And, despite my deep gratitude for her and everything she brings to our lives, I too will be standing there with flowers and a card in hand, a table booked at her favorite cafe, plus a sweet surprise wrapped up – feeling cheap.

I am glad that I got to fly her to Melbourne to sight the works of her favorite painter van Gough at the national gallery just a few years ago on Mother’s Day; that I have helped out, fixed and repaired what needed doing whenever I could come to visit; moved them house many a time; bought her a car just last year and tried my best to bring more of the things that fill her heart and feed her soul to her at any given (or created) chance…

for granted, but for one day per year when we proudly proclaim she does not have to cook or clean but be celebrated instead. Wouldn’t it be more honouring if we cherished her by doing things for her on more days than one in a year?

Researching the origins of the big Mum day, and as I reflect upon it and write about it, I sit here half way through my own life with a broken leg and temporarily limping around on crutches. My mother, just into her 80’s without a single question or complaint is there to make up any loss in mobility so I have nothing the lack of.

She already is the full-time carer for her husband, my step-dad, for many years ensuring he can remain at home and now me as well. Thinking about the big day of celebrating her, I cannot fathom the countless things she has done – from having me and my sister, raising us, caring for the wider family, mending endless cuts and a few broken hearts, cooking nourishment for us all more times than I can recall, being strong, being there – always. And, despite my deep gratitude for her and everything she brings to our lives, I too will be standing there with flowers and a card in hand, a table booked at her favorite cafe, plus a sweet surprise wrapped up – feeling cheap.

I am glad that I got to fly her to Melbourne to sight the works of her favorite painter van Gough at the national gallery a few years ago on Mother’s Day; that I have helped, fixed and repaired what needed doing whenever I come to visit; moved them house many a time; bought her a car just last year and tried my best to bring more of the things that fill her heart and feed her soul to her at any given (or created) chance…

And, still I wonder how can one really acknowledge and celebrate our mother enough – be it on Mother’s Day or any or every other day? Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.


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