A DIRECTORY OF HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR SENIORS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
The woman who invented Mother’s Day would absolutely hate what it is today
While dining at a Philadelphia tearoom owned by her friend John Wanamaker, Anna Jarvis ordered a salad — then dumped it on the floor.
Jarvis hated that the food was called “Mother’s Day Salad,” named after a celebration of mothers that she had pioneered years earlier.
The strong-willed woman saw it not as an honor, but as an affront to a tradition she held so dear. To her, it was a cheap marketing gimmick to profit off an idea that she considered to be hers, and hers alone.
The incident was recounted in a newspaper article published sometime in the early 1900s, years after Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day service in the country, said Katharine Antolini, a historian who has studied Jarvis and how Mother’s Day became a national holiday.
Jarvis spent decades fighting an uphill battle to keep Mother’s Day from becoming the commercialized holiday that it is today. To her, it was simply a day to honor mothers, and she started it to commemorate her own. So when people co-opted her idea for other purposes, Jarvis was incensed.
Born in Webster, W.Va., Jarvis created Mother’s Day because she was inspired by her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a Sunday school teacher who helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach women how to care for their children.
After one lecture in 1876, Ann Reeves Jarvis prayed that somebody would create a day commemorating mothers for their service for humanity, Antolini said.
Twelve-year-old Anna Jarvis remembered that.
Her mother died in 1905, and Jarvis, then in her 40s, promised at her gravesite that she’d be the one to answer her prayer.
Over the next years, Jarvis embarked on a relentless letter-writing campaign to persuade governors of every state to declare the second Sunday of May — the closest Sunday to her mother’s death anniversary — Mother’s Day.
She wrote to Mark Twain, President Theodore Roosevelt and any other powerful politician she could think of to help her with her cause, Antolini said. She also sought the help of Wanamaker, the Philadelphia businessman and her friend.
The first Mother’s Day service was held one morning in 1908 at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton. She bought hundreds of carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, for the service. A bigger celebration was held that afternoon at Wanamaker’s auditorium in Pennsylvania, where Jarvis spoke.