Mother’s Day Dilemma Solved By Grammar!


Thanks to Kiwi Families editor (and regular here) Rochelle, who spoke about Mother’s Day on Radio Live yesterday, and Lawrence’s ever-informative Facebook feed, I have another contribution to the Mother’s Day debate.

You may recall I wasn’t sure where the apostrophe should really go. Is it a day to celebrate one mother or many?

Yesterday I advocated keeping celebrations of Mother’s Day within the family unit, rather than making it a public occasion where shopkeepers feel they have to wish every female customer a happy Mother’s Day. I should have followed that logic through to the grammar, which, it turns out, was very important to one of the key founders of the day in the States.

This National Geographic article on the origins of the occasion is sad and fascinating:

Largely through [Anna] Jarvis’s efforts, Mother’s Day came to be observed in a growing number of cities and states until U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially set aside the second Sunday in May in 1914 for the holiday.

“For Jarvis it was a day where you’d go home to spend time with your mother and thank her for all that she did,” said West Virginia Wesleyan’s Antolini, who wrote “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Defense of Her Mother’s Day” as her Ph.D. dissertation.

“It wasn’t to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you’ve ever known—your mother—as a son or a daughter.” That’s why Jarvis stressed the singular “Mother’s Day,” rather than the plural “Mothers’ Day,” Antolini explained.

But Jarvis’s success soon turned to failure, at least in her own eyes.

Anna Jarvis’s idea of an intimate Mother’s Day quickly became a commercial gold mine centering on the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards—a development which deeply disturbed Jarvis. She set about dedicating herself and her sizable inheritance to returning Mother’s Day to its reverent roots.

Jarvis incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association and tried to retain some control of the holiday. She organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s Day to raise funds for charities.

[Read more at National Geographic.]

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0 comments on “Mother’s Day Dilemma Solved By Grammar!”

  1. Alex Reply

    Fascinating. I never knew anything about the American/International version of Mother’s Day. We had our UK version a couple of months ago, which (as my father never tires of reminding us) should properly be called Mothering Sunday, and not Mother’s Day at all (which neatly avoids the apostrophe problem!) I will leave it to your Christian readers to debate the significance (or otherwise) of Mothering Sunday in the calendar – I believe it was originally a day to return to your mother church? – but certainly here it no longer seems to be primarily a religious day, and you’d be hard pressed to find a card calling it anything other than Mother’s Day… I share your ambivalence to it all, which is much the same as my ambivalence towards Valentine’s Day, another day that can cause great hurt. I am lucky enough to feel appreciated and loved all year round, so don’t feel much need for a particular day to mark either. I’m certainly not going to turn down the handmade cards and gifts my children currently bring home from pre-school, nor will I turn my nose up at the occasional bunch of flowers, or (in years to come) a cup of tea brought to me in bed (I can dream!) – but I hope they never feel obliged to go out and spend money on cards and gifts etc just because society says that’s what they should be doing on that day.

  2. Pippa Reply

    I’m going to nod my head to Alex’s comment and not repeat it all.

    And then I am going to be a bit cheeky, as I don’t go to Church, perhaps I shouldn’t comment on what Churches “should” or could do. But as others have commented on the first thread, Mother’s day like other days which are trailed in the shops for weeks in advance can be intensely painful, for all the reasons detailed in the other post. I would have thought that whilst celebrating mothering, particular for those mother’s who don’t have a partner or pre school who might encourage and support children to make the cards etc Church also needs to be a place that acknowledges that every time you’ve been in a supermarket for the previous two weeks you have been bombarded with messages about mother’s day, and that this has hurt, for whatever reason and you are supported in that hurt. By saying it is a private, family event then the opportunity to celebrate is lost, but also the opportunity to offer what is probably much needed love and support.

  3. Pingback: Should We Just Abandon Mothers’ Day? | Sacraparental

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