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  • Rev. Helena Martin

The Surprising Origins of Mother's Day

Mother's Day can be painful for many people. There are those who are mothers, of course, but also those who no longer feel they can claim the title "mother" because they have lost their child. Others of us have lost mothers, or never had good relationships with them in the first place. Or perhaps we long to become mothers but, for any number of reasons, it hasn't happened yet.

It surprised me to learn that the woman who created Mother's Day never intended for it to become a greeting-card holiday. Actually—it surprised me that an actual person invented it at all, as opposed to maybe the government... or Hallmark.

Anna Jarvis, who was child-free by choice, created the holiday in 1908 to celebrate her own mother. It was designated a national holiday in 1914. Greeting card, flower, and candy companies quickly seized on the idea.

By the time she died, Ms. Jarvis was fighting to have the day rescinded. She was horrified at what it had become.

Ms. Jarvis insisted that Mother's Day was not about buying things or even sending a card. It was about being together with your mother (preferably to take care of her and give her a well-earned break). And if you couldn't visit, she said that the next-best thing was to send a heartfelt written letter, rather than the words of some greeting card company.

If today is painful for you, or feels laden with grief, you can rest assured that you are in good company—not least with the woman who created this day in the first place.


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