This week in history, 98 years ago
Friday, 8 May 1914: Mother’s Day, in its present form, was proclaimed by US President Woodrow Wilson as a day for American citizens to honour the mothers whose sons had died in war.
The proclamation was a product of the efforts by Anna Marie Jarvis following the death of her mother on 9 May 1905. She intended the day to cherish all mothers and motherhood.
Similar celebrations occur throughout the world and history. Many of these can be traced back to ancient festivals like the Greek Cybele cult and the Roman festival of Hilaria. But it was thanks to Anna Jarvis that it became an internationally recognised day of remembrance.
Commercialisation of Mother’s Day began early, and nine years after the first official Mother’s Day had become so rampant that Jarvis herself became an opponent of the celebration, spending her inheritance and the remainder of her life fighting what she saw as gross misuse.
She decried the practice of buying greeting cards, which she saw as a sign of being too lazy to write a personal letter. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialisation of Mother’s Day, and she finally said she “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control”. She died later that year.
Ironically, it is now believed that the commercialisation actually ensured the survival of the holiday, whereas other festivals of the same era, such as Children’s Day and Temperance Sunday, have waned in popularity.