Anna Jarvis wasn’t my mom. In fact, I never heard of her until I started writing this story. She was the person who created Mother’s Day over 100 years ago. She started the holiday to honor all the sacrifices mothers make for their children.

She was born in 1864 in Webster, West Virginia, the ninth of eleven children born to Reverend Granville and Ann Reeves Jarvis. From childhood, Anna often heard her mother say that she hoped someone would one day establish a memorial day for all mothers, living and dead.

In May 1908, Anna organized the first official Mother’s Day events at a church in Grafton, West Virginia, and at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia, where she lived at the time. Jarvis then began writing letters to newspapers and politicians pushing for the adoption of Mother’s Day as an official holiday.

By 1912, many other churches, towns, and states held Mother’s Day celebrations, and Jarvis established the Mother’s Day International Association. Her hard-fought campaign paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Anna thought of Mother’s Day as an intimate occasion—a son or daughter honoring the mother they knew and loved—and not a celebration of all mothers. For this reason, she always stressed the singular “mother” rather than the plural. She soon grew disillusioned, as Mother’s Day almost immediately became centered on the buying and giving of printed cards, flowers, candies, and other gifts.

In 1925, when an organization called the “American War Mothers” used Mother’s Day as an occasion for fundraising and selling carnations, Jarvis crashed their convention in Philadelphia and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Later she even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day to raise charity money. By the 1940s, Jarvis had disowned the holiday and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the calendar.

Anna Jarvis was disillusioned by what she thought Mother’s Day should be and what it evolved into over the years. I think if she were here today and saw the excitement that moms have in looking forward each year to their big day and seeing what excitement is created by a mother’s children to make the day as special as can be, then possibly she would see the good in what the day means and overlook the commercialism of the celebration.

As a child, I remember drawing my mom a picture and making a  homemade card for her special day. Mom always acted like it was the most precious gift. I knew kids who made their mom breakfast or the whole family went out for a special lunch or dinner. Mother’s Day is very commercialized, just like most other holidays, but I am so glad there is a special day to celebrate our moms. It doesn’t mean spending money on a card or flowers. There are many other ways to show appreciation. Just use your imagination and think of what her likes and dislikes are. The best gift  that you can give a person, no matter the occasion, is the gift of your time. Spend time with your mom. Have a great visit, reminisce, and love her. You don’t need to give expensive gifts or flowers from a flower shop.  

I remember a time in my life when I was struggling financially, so I wrote my mom a poem telling her what she meant to me. She told me it was the best gift of all.  

Proverbs 31:25-30 (ESV) says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Anna Jarvis had no children of her own, yet somehow it seems fitting to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. She regretted what she created, but I am grateful for this special day in which we can honor and remember our moms. Somehow that doesn’t seem wrong.

Today I think moms everywhere would agree that Mother’s Day is something special and worth celebrating, in whatever manner their children choose to celebrate and honor them.

Happy Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, and to all the mom’s out there. God bless you on your special day.

Written by: Laurie Davis

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