This Sunday, give in the spirit of Anna Jarvis, the mother of Mother’s Day


Anna Jarvis, who died in 1948, was not a mother herself, but she is considered “the mother of Mother’s Day” for her efforts to create the holiday in the United States.
Anna Jarvis, who died in 1948, was not a mother herself, but she is considered “the mother of Mother’s Day” for her efforts to create the holiday in the United States. AP photo

When one reads the story of Mother’s Day, well ... let’s just say the woman it was begun to honor was well-deserved, and that’s putting it in a woeful understatement. And the daughter who started it was herself a formidable person of gumption.

It’s quite a story, and tomorrow, let’s hope that sometime between the early hour when young kids dump runny eggs and instant coffee and a jelly jar in Mom’s lap — breakfast in bed, don’t you know — and the time when the family comes in from dinner out with Mom and Grandma, the names of Anna Jarvis and her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis will come up.

Their story is quite literally the story of Mother’s Day. Basically, Anna Jarvis admired her mother, who died in 1905 after a gallant life that included work as an activist for peace who nursed the wounded who fought for the South, and for the North, in the Civil War. So Anna Jarvis wanted to start Mother’s Day to honor her mother, and did so at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908.

President Woodrow Wilson made it official in 1914 with a proclamation after the idea had been rejected by Congress a few years earlier. The prospect of facing their mothers after rejecting an official Mother’s Day may have been what prompted so many in Congress to keep running and build seniority. They were likely afraid to go home.

Ever since, Mother’s Day has been the glorious occasion it deserves to be. Anna Jarvis always liked the holiday, but she got mad about how it got too commercial and said that rather than send commercial greeting cards, people ought to write personal notes to their mothers. She said, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

And so, in the generous and deeper spirit Jarvis wanted for a day for all mothers, here are gifts from the heart for Mother’s Day:

If your mother is alive and well, by all means go to wherever she is if you can get there and give the day to her if you can.

If your mother is ill, go to her and sit by her bedside and don’t worry about making a lot of conversation. She’ll know what you mean.

If your mother is deceased, go to wherever she is anyway, and take some flowers. She’ll appreciate it.

If your mother is a grandmother, sit the kids down and explain to them why she is important to you. Then take them to see her for hugs and kisses.

If your mother is gone but your father is not, go to see him and talk about your mother. She’ll appreciate that, too.

Tomorrow, hug your mother like it might be the last time, and say those things you always mean to say but sometimes forget about or feel too embarrassed to say. Think about a fond memory of the two of you, and tell her about it.

And here’s something for which we didn’t need a card: Happy Mother’s Day to you all.