Motherís Day: Celebrations and Traditions
While versions of Motherís Day are celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Motherís Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit. Another alternate observance of Motherís Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.
In the United States, Motherís Day continues to be celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. Families might also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores. At times Motherís Day has also been a date for launching political or feminist causes. In 1968 Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Motherís Day to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s womenís groups also used the holiday as a time to highlight the need for equal rights and access to childcare.
Motherís Day: Founding by Anna Jarvis
The official Motherís Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her motherís 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Motherís Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Motherís Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Motherís Day event at one of Wanamakerís retail stores in Philadelphia.
Following the success of her first Motherís Day, Jarvisówho remained unmarried and childless her whole lifeóresolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she 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 Motherís Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Motherís Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Motherís Day.
Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Motherís Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting oneís mother or attending church services. But once Motherís Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.
While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Motherís Dayís profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Motherís Day flowers, cards and candies. Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Motherís Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name ďMotherís Day,Ē eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.