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Mother’s Day is More than Cards and Flowers

Mother’s Day as we know it today is a much different animal than the people who inspired and originated it intended. In fact, Julia Ward Howe who is better known as the lyricist of Battle Hymn of the Republic sought recognition for a Mothers’ Day for Peace. She was inspired by the devastation of the U.S. Civil War  as well as the Franco-Prussian War.

I set out to write something pithy about how commercialism has turned holidays like Mothers’ Day and Valentines day into nothing more than guilt-ridden farces which tell us that only by spending excessive amounts of money can we truly prove our love.

Keying the words “Mothers Day” into Google, took me on an entirely different path. What I learned by reading just a couple of articles both surprised and intrigued me. I can’t help myself. I have to share what I learned with you. Maybe some of you were already aware of the origins of this day set aside to honor the woman who gave us life, or in some cases, took us into her heart and home and helped us grow into the people we are today. If not, what follows might surprise you.

While Ms. Howe failed to garner support for her idea, two other women on a similar mission found a way to put the date on our calendars.

Mothers Organized for Compassion

20 years earlier, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis organized Mothers Day Work Clubs in West Virginia (later renamed Mothers Friendship Clubs) to combat poor sanitary conditions which contributed to the high infant mortality rate.  The clubs were instrumental in providing “…medicine for the poor, nursing care for the sick, and arranged help and proper medical care for those ill with tuberculosis.” (see site reference below). When the Civil War began, Mrs. Jarvis asked several of her clubs to uphold the friendship and goodwill practiced by the members. Many lives were saved because the women nursed soldiers regardless of affiliation.

After the war, she organized a Mother’s Friendship Day to help families heal the rifts the war had caused. Upon Ann’s death, her daughter Anna made it her life’s work to give her mother the day honoring mothers for their service to humanity which Ann had spoken of often.

Making it Official and Losing Sight of the True Purpose

The first Mothers’ Day celebration took place at Ann’s church on the anniversary of her death. Within 7 years, Anna and her supporters had gained enough momentum to persuade President Wilson to make the date official. By then, almost every state had adopted the holiday. Unfortunately, the focus of the holiday was changed from women’s activism to home and family. As time went by it became more common for people to buy cards and presents  rather than spending time honoring their own mothers. Anna fought against the commercialism which replaced her mother’s vision.

Life Changes and We Adapt

Here’s where I put my own two cents in. My daughter never missed celebrating Mother’s Day with me when she was living nearby. I have fond memories of many-course, microwaved breakfasts in bed from the time she was too young to use the stove without supervision. There was never any doubt that she loved and appreciated me, even during the teenage years.

Now that she lives nearly 200 miles away, we have to choose between celebrating Mother’s Day or my birthday together as both are in May. To be honest, I don’t need a special day to celebrate my motherhood any more. I have years of memories of simple but heartfelt celebrations. We spend the day with our own friends instead. She lives in a military community, so many of her friends are even further from their mothers than she is. I have friends whose children live in other states.

I’m also put off by the idea that people are made to feel guilty if they don’t honor their mother on this one, particular, manufactured day. It may have started with good intentions, but commercialism has turned it into a travesty. Just like Valentine’s Day. Just like Christmas. Greeting cards and gifts one day a year are poor substitutes for showing love and caring throughout the year, just because.

Finding Our Way Back to the True Meaning of Mother’s Day

The day was intended to be a celebration of those people who are the glue that keeps a family together through all manner of strife, to recognize the efforts they make to improve conditions, not just for themselves, but for everyone. In this world where women are once again coming together, protesting poor decisions fueled by testosterone and greed, maybe it’s time we got back to the original reason behind Mother’s Day. Maybe we need to reinstate Ann Jarvis’ Mothers Friendship Clubs and make Mother’s Day a day of community service instead of greeting cards and flowers which ultimately end up in trash bins.

Always Being Grateful for Things Large and Small

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful for the synchronicities which led me to research and write this piece.
  2. I’m grateful for women like those mentioned in this article who have helped restore peace and improve conditions without judgment or selection.
  3. I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my daughter which doesn’t require manufactured days of appreciation.
  4. I’m grateful for my friends with whom I’ll spend my second Mother’s Day in the hills overlooking our beautiful coastline.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, appreciation, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

History of Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day’s Surprisingly Dark History

Photo courtesy of Chris Phutully via Flickr


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