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Everything You Need to Know about Mother’s Day and Then Some

by Keith Gatling | 10 months ago

A few weeks ago I told you how you could create your own custom Mothers Day cards...or cards of any occasion, for that matter.

Now I think it's time to tell you a little about that holiday.

Anna Jarvis isn't exactly a household name these days, but she was in the early years of the 20th century. You see, she's the person who created Mother's Day, and actively campaigned to have it put on the calendar. She created it as a memorial to her own mother, who had died in 1905, as part of the "Sunday School Movement", with the intent that it would be "holy day, not a holiday", and that on this day, people would write heartfelt letters to their mothers, saying how important they were to them.

But within 10 years of its official proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, she wanted to kill the "monster" she had created, and actively campaigned against it, because she was incensed by how "commercial" it had become. She had intended it to be a day for "sentiment, not for profit", and was angered by the huge profits that the greeting card, candy, and flower industries were making from her "holy day."

To her, it had become the most loathsome of things...the dreaded "Hallmark Holiday", a term which is horribly misused, because Hallmark didn't create any of those holidays, they simply made a mint realizing that people would like cards to send on those occasions.

And that’s what ticked her off…the fact that people sent their mothers printed greeting cards rather than a heartfelt, handwritten letter. Or to quote her:

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.

Now, I’m quite certain that if I wrote my mother the kind of letter that Anna Jarvis wanted me to, she’d be on the phone immediately, asking how many days I had left to live. I also know that if I wrote the kind of letter that Jarvis wanted us all to write, I’d have to double my insulin dosage for the day. My family is just not that overtly sentimental.

And that’s OK. For you see, the other thing that Anna Jarvis didn’t get is that for many families the candy, the flowers, and the dreaded greeting card, are symbols of what she wanted people to say outright. They are symbols of what is already understood within the families that use them, and that might even mean more than the handwritten note she insisted upon.

I can only imagine Anna Jarvis’s reaction to the grandmother of a friend of mine who would’ve seen the handwritten note as a sign that you were too cheap and lazy to go to the store and pick out a nice Hallmark card for her. She'd say "Write the note if you want…but make sure it’s in a proper card!"

Ironically, one of the reasons that Anna Jarvis didn’t get it was because she was never a mother herself. To her, Mother’s Day was always about her own mother, and was never something she got to experience from the other side, where she might have gained a different perspective.

She didn’t understand that once she’d let the genie out of the bottle, people would observe Mother’s Day any way they wanted to, whether it was the way she had in mind or not. And so she spent the rest of her life trying to stuff that all too independent genie back. She was so set on having Mother’s Day observed the way that she had intended, that she never paid attention to the joy millions of women got from the way that it actually was being observed.

And so if your mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, wife, whatever, enjoys the candy, the cards, and the flowers, I say run out and get them right now. Thank Anna for the idea, but then tell her that she's being a bit too much of a control freak.