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.