“Mother’s Day” Creator Went To Great Pains To Ensure It Didn’t Get Commercialized...it Still Did

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“Mother’s Day” Creator Went To Great Pains To Ensure It Didn’t Get Commercialized...it Still Did


Mother’s Day is well-embraced now in many parts of the world. Why wouldn’t it be? None of us would ever be here if it weren’t for our mothers. Activist, inventor, and creator of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, had other ideas for the holiday though, and most of it was the belief that it should not be used for any kind of money-grab schemes. 

National Geographic listed down the instances in which Jarvis wanted to make sure that the holiday didn’t get commercialized, and how, at each turn, she, unfortunately, did not succeed. 

The story goes that Jarvis set up the Mother’s Day holiday as a way to call for women and unite them under the goal of standing up against “the horrors of the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco-Prussian War.” 


Screengrabbed photograph of Anna Jarvis by Bettmann, Corbis via National Geographic


During those days, another woman, Julia Ward Howe, even wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to promote the holiday in 1872, and went out of her way to ask for women “to gather once a year in parlors, churches, or social halls to listen to sermons, present essays, sing hymns, or pray if they wished—all in the name of promoting peace,” this according to the West Virginia Wesleyan College historian Katharine Antolini. 

These initiatives sat well with Jarvis, but some others just got to her nerves. 

When in 1904 former football coach Frank Hering held a Fraternal Order of Eagles gathering in Indianapolis and got recognized today for it as, along with the Eagles, the “true founders of Mother’s Day,” Jarvis had a lot to say about this course of action. She fired back at Hering and accused him that he was snatching “the rightful title of originator and founder of Mother’s Day” from her hands. 


Photo by melpomen via 123rf


Since Jarvis’ main goal was to promote Mother’s Day for peace, she was also vehemently against fundraising events done in the spirit of the holiday. Antolini told the impact-driven global nonprofit organization, National Geographic, that this was because she wanted to safeguard the sanctity of the holiday and keep it away from people who would use it to make money. 

Now, it would sound incredibly thoughtful if someone had the brilliant idea of fundraising in honor of mothers, but Jarvis’ reason had been that she wasn’t sure if the money raised were going to go to the intended recipients, and so she shunned it altogether.

Despite her best efforts, the holiday eventually became exactly like she didn’t want it to be. Safeguarding the holiday had been Jarvis’ whole life. It was a part of her, almost, as Antolini said that she would even sign her name with “Founder of Mother’s Day.” If she were alive today, she would balk at the $23 million holiday that it had become, especially since she went bankrupt trying to protect it.



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