Mother’s Day can be a difficult and painful day for some and for others, a day steeped in love and gratitude. Sending love to all mothers today and thinking of my own mother, departed for many years. She was a very loving and gentle soul and a woman who loved dogs.
The Birth of Mother’s Day
The origin of Mother’s Day as we know it took place in the early 1900s. A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died. The first larger-scale celebration of the holiday was in 1908, when Jarvis held a public memorial for her mother in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia.
Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized, and it was celebrated increasingly in more and more states around the U.S. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May.
Anna Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children. That’s why she was determined to keep “Mother’s” a singular possessive, as marked by the apostrophe before “s.” Each family should celebrate its own mother, so that individual women across the country could feel the love, even in the midst of a broad celebration of motherhood.
Other Mother’s Days
Before Anna Jarvis worked to get a day just for recognizing mothers, her own mom played an important role uniting women for good causes. Mama Jarvis—also known as Ann Reeves Jarvis—cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the field during the Civil War, and in its aftermath she organized a “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” the goal of which was to foster reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers by having them come together, along with mothers from both sides. With the senior Jarvis’ lifelong focus on caring for children and promoting peace, it’s no wonder her daughter fought for a day just for moms.
At around the same time Ann Reeves Jarvis was working with mothers in the spirit of peace, Julia Ward Howe, another activist—as well as abolitionist and suffragette—worked to have June 2 be celebrated as “Mother’s Peace Day,” and wrote a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling on mothers to work toward world peace.
These women and others were responsible for precursors to Mother’s Day in American culture, but celebrations of motherhood go back deeper than that. Such celebrations sometimes involved worship of a mother deity, such as the Goddess Isis in Ancient Egypt, or Cybele and Rhea in Ancient Greece. In other cases, celebrations were only tangentially about mothers: Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom, for example, was originally dedicated to the “Mother Church,” but was later broadened to honor human mothers, too.
Around the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated in a variety of ways and on different dates throughout the year, though many countries observe the holiday on the same day as the United States—proof of the powerful impact made by Anna Jarvis.
For those struggling on this day, a thought about remothering and healing.
Remothering is an ongoing practice, (tremendously helped by a mentor), of learning to care for your body’s needs, validating and expressing your feelings, speaking healthy boundaries, supporting your life choices, and most of all – growing loving towards all that is unsolved in your heart.
To your remothered self I offer this future blessing:
Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging. (Excerpt from Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner)