Warm Southern Breeze

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Happy #MothersDay 2016!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, May 8, 2016

Anna Jarvis, the woman credited in 1908 with celebrating the first day to recognize mothers, later later denounced the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar, after it became an official U.S. holiday in 1914.

Much earlier, however, the ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. But the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival which was known as “Mothering Sunday.”

As a once-major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, that celebration occurred on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally viewed as a time when the Christian faithful would return to their “mother church” – which was the main church in the vicinity of their home – for a special service.

In the years before the Civil War (1861-65), Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped establish “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. Later, those clubs became a unifying factor in a region of our country which was still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Mrs. Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” which was a day in which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1870 a “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” which was a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. By 1873 she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Yet it was Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, who, after her mother’s death in 1905, conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

Subsequent to obtaining funding from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 Anna Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Ironically, that same day also marked when thousands of people attended a Mother’s Day “event” at one of Wanamaker’s Philadelphia-based retail stores.

Interestingly, Anna Jarvis remained unmarried and childless her entire life, yet resolved to see her holiday added to the American national calendar. She argued that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, and started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. In 1914, her persistence paid off when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

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